"Ineffective, Politically Correct War Drama"
What You Need To Know:
BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK contrasts Billy’s perception of the war and his trip home with the perceptions of civilians. In doing so, it’s mostly a liberal, leftist attack on the Iraq War and on American values, including American values of patriotism and capitalism. Despite some positive moments with the soldiers, the soldiers don’t always come off that well either. Furthermore, the movie has lots of strong foul language and a few obscene moments. The only solid saving grace of BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK is the camaraderie Billy shares with his warrior brothers.
(RoRoRo, PCPC, AcapAcapAcap, APAP, P, Ho, Pa, B, C, LLL, VVV, SS, NN, A, DD, MM) Very strong Romantic, politically correct (if not overtly Marxist/communist) portrayal of America and the Iraq War and the War on Islamic Terrorism, with what seems to be an overly strong, cynical indictment of America’s capitalist system as well as a strong indictment of American society, of the average American citizen who’s not in the armed forces or doesn’t have a close relative in the armed forces and a strong indictment of American patriotism (especially with regard to the Iraq War as viewed by many liberals and most leftists in 2004 before the surge in 2005 and 2006 was extremely successful), mitigated by some positive moments involving the American soldiers, plus an apparent politically correct pro-homosexual view supporting open homosexual behavior in the armed forces, one protagonist’s mentor makes New Age references to Hinduism and a Hindu god, some moral elements (such as some pro-family points are made), and light Christian references when cheerleader says she’s Christian (though her faith seems a bit superficial) and a couple positive references to prayer; very strong foul language includes about 87 mostly strong obscenities (many “f” words) and seven strong profanities (four GDs and three profanities involve the name of Jesus in some way); some very strong and strong war violence includes a long shot of heavy gunfire totally obliterating a Muslim terrorist’s body, sergeant is wounded in the upper hip area on his right side, intense gunfire, explosions, soldier fights with a Muslim terrorist and eventually stabs him to death, a pool of blood gathers under Muslim terrorist’s head after he’s stabbed by American soldier, and a solider rudely puts a civilian football fan in a “sleeper hold” and the fan goes unconscious; brief shot of depicted fornication, some crude references to oral sex, a crude reference to self-abuse, references to lap dances, and a male soldier mocks a male football fan’s apparent anti-homosexual comments about open homosexuality in the armed forces by kissing him; brief upper female nudity in one scene, brief upper male nudity, and cheerleaders in short skirts and midriff-baring tops; alcohol use; smoking and soldiers smoke some marijuana with a football stadium worker (the scene actually appears to endorse marijuana use); and, strong miscellaneous immorality such as soldiers sometimes come across as overly rude toward civilians who ask naïve or silly questions or make naïve or allegedly silly comments that upset the soldiers, football team owner is shown to be hypocritical and condescending, some inappropriate ridicule occurs, and soldier’s leftist antiwar sister wants him to leave his brothers-in-arms in the lurch and make a borderline PTSD claim that could help him avoid deployment back to Iraq.
Once in a while, Hollywood releases a major movie whose purpose for being made is totally perplexing. Such is the case with Ang Lee’s BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK, a cynical movie about a platoon of soldiers who briefly return hom from the Iraq War in 2004. The platoon is making a publicity tour because of their heroism. They end up taking part in a ridiculous halftime show during a Thanksgiving Day football game at Dallas Cowboys stadium.
In the first place, the movie probably should have been made more than 10 years ago, before the 2005 surge in Iraq helped win that country for the freedom-loving citizens still alive in that country and before President Obama mistakenly pulled out all troops in 2011. President Obama’s troop withdrawal directly led to the Islamic State’s ad hoc terrorist state, one of the most brutal Muslim regimes in Islam’s 1,394 years of existence. Ignoring these facts, the movie regurgitates all the leftist political attacks against the Iraq War before the surge, attacks which are now moot and, in reality, make far less sense today in 2016, especially given all that has happened in Iraq, the Middle East and the world since 2004. Finally, the movie’s title itself doesn’t make any sense, because Billy never really takes a long walk at halftime. In fact, he’s actually ordered to just stand motionless while Destiny’s Child performs during the halftime show!
BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK opens with a brief news report showing Private Billy Lynn risking his life to save his sergeant’s life in Iraq. Billy runs to the fatally wounded sergeant’s side and starts firing a pistol at the sergeant’s attackers. Because of his bravery, Billy receives a Silver Star, even though the sergeant died in the skirmish.
Cut to Billy sleeping at a Dallas hotel room. A phone call wakes him up and tells him he’s late for a meeting with his buddies of Bravo Platoon. The platoon is headed for the Dallas Cowboys stadium where the soldiers will be honored, get to watch the game from the 50-yard line, and take part in the halftime show featuring Beyoncé and her old singing group, Destiny’s Child. With the soldiers gathered outside the hotel, viewers learn the platoon has a Hollywood agent, who’s constantly on the phone trying to get them a movie deal that could be worth up to $100,000 each.
As the day drags on at the stadium, Billy recalls some of his days in Iraq, including conversations with the dead sergeant and the firefight that resulted in his death. Billy also recalls recent visits and talks with his leftist sister, Kathryn, at their Texas home. Kathryn who wants Billy to claim a PTSD discharge so he won’t have to go back to Iraq.
So, Billy is faced with a choice. Should he follow his sister’s advice or stick with his brothers-in-arms and accept his redeployment?
Meanwhile, at the stadium, Billy and a Cowboys cheerleader make a romantic connection. Also, the platoon’s surviving sergeant, David, is short tempered with a Texas fracking businessman who tells the soldiers he’s trying to make America energy independent so that American troops can get out of the Middle East. Another soldier gets angry at a football fan opposed to homosexuals in the military. The soldiers also get in a fight with some rude stadium workers. Finally, the Cowboys owner turns out to be a sleazy operator who only seems to be using the soldiers for publicity and for phony celebrations of patriotism.
The multiple flashbacks in BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK diminish the movie’s dramatic effect, despite the admitted power of its 3D battle scenes. Also hurting the drama is its mostly Romantic, liberal take on America, its soldiers, patriotism, the Iraq War, and even capitalism. Thus, the rest of the movie’s scenes and encounters seem to confirm the leftist sister’s Anti-American, anti-capitalist and rather cynical pacifist opinions. The only part where the movie doesn’t do this is the feeling of camaraderie expressed between Billy and his brothers-in-arms. Eventually, it’s that camaraderie that solves the movie’s plot problem, so the movie’s not exactly a total waste.
Even so, there are scenes where the soldiers are a bit rude in a profane way, or express their feelings in an obscene way. For example, at the football stadium, the soldiers are interviewed in a press conference. In that scene, the reporters ask some stupid questions, and the movie shows what the soldiers are really thinking before they give their official, more polite answer. In one shot, the soldiers are asked what they liked to do in their off time in Iraq. The real answer they give in their heads is, “Masturbate.” In another scene, a soldier answers a question about what he feels about the war in a mocking way that sounds as if it’s actually coming from Billy’s leftist sister, who’s very bitter about the Iraq War and her brother’s engagement in it.
BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK also contains lots of strong foul language, including some crude remarks. There’s also a very brief scene of depicted fornication. Finally, in a couple scenes in Iraq, the dead sergeant talks to Billy about Hindu deities and seems to have a false New Age system of pagan beliefs that affect how he views his role as a soldier.
Ultimately, BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK is unacceptable. It’s actually rather a chore to sit through its politically correct clichés and ineffective drama. What is perhaps most unacceptable about the movie, however, is that it uses the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that many combat soldiers suffer (about one-third according to the PTSD Foundation of America’s website at http://ptsdusa.org/what-is-ptsd/the-statistics/) to promote its liberal/leftist political agenda. It’s a good thing for movies to address this important issue affecting our soldiers in the War on Islamic Terrorism, but this movie seems to say that PTSD is the fault of America’s misguided, if not “evil,” patriotic, capitalist system. According to this movie apparently, America’s system forces its volunteer soldiers to go to allegedly pointless wars for no good reasons whatsoever.
Note: MOVIEGUIDE® screened the HFR (High Frame Rate), 4K version in 3D of this movie. The HFR and 4K really help make the 3D stand out much better, though the scenes also seem like a supercharged TV video rather than a celluloid movie.