The Daily Gamecock

Review: ​Ang Lee brings Ben Fountain’s award-winning novel to the big screen

Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) in TriStar Pictures' BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK.
Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) in TriStar Pictures' BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK.

Movie: "Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”

Director: Ang Lee 

Runtime: 113 min

Production Company: Sony Pictures 

Release Date: Oct. 14 

Rating: B-

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is based on Ben Fountain’s original book of the same name. Fountain’s book was a National Book Award finalist in 2012, when it was originally published.  I highly recommend reading Fountain's book before seeing this adaptation, as it truly is a great read.

The premise of the movie surrounds Billy Lynn, played by Joe Alwyn, along with his "Bravo Squad," being paraded around the U.S. for their heroic actions captured on video during a battle in Iraq. Their Victory Tour culminates on Thanksgiving Day at the Dallas football stadium, where they will participate in the halftime show. 

The whole movie takes place over the course of that day at Dallas Stadium, but the film is a flashback-driven narrative. The flashbacks serve to advance the story by revealing more about Lynn’s character, his squadmates and what happened during that battle in Iraq. 

“Billy Lynn” is directed by the Academy Award-winning Ang Lee, a filmmaker with a diverse filmography under his belt. His previous films include "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Life of Pi." Many of Lee's films are based on books, and I was very interested in seeing what his vision would be for the soldiers of "Bravo."

And what an ambitious vision it was. Lee shot the movie in 120 frames per second, allowing for more depth and detail within each frame, versus the industry standard of 24 frames per second. Unfortunately, only a select number of theaters in America were able to show the film at its intended specifications. My theater was one of the many theaters showing it at the standard 24 fps.

At first I was disappointed in not being able to see “Billy Lynn” come to life with all of the bells and whistles Lee intended. But once the lights dimmed and the movie began, it did not matter to me at all.

At its core, “Billy Lynn” is a story about a soldier returning home from war to discover that some wounds still linger long after the battle has ended. Fountain’s book does an excellent job at conveying this idea through dialogue between Lynn, his squad, his family and other characters in the book. However, the dialogue does not translate well into a live-action performance.

This is where Lee’s merits as a director shines. The pitfalls of dialogue meant for the page are overshadowed by the power of the image. There is a lot of symbolism in the movie. Composition and blocking of the characters within each frame is everything.

Lee’s direction doesn’t forget the roots that grounded the original book making it a compelling story. He, along with the ensemble cast, have just provided another effective medium for “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” to be told.

And that’s all you can ask for in an adaptation.


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