Reporter: “Are we making a difference over there?”
Soldier 1: “Absolutely. America is out there producing dozens of suicidal, pissed-off insurgents every day.”
Reporter: “What do you boys enjoy doing in your downtime?”
Soldier 1: “I like to play videogames.”
Soldier 2: “I enjoy TV.”
Soldier 3: “I enjoy board games, like Chutes and Ladders.”
Soldier 4: “I like to kill my enemies and listen to the lamentations of their women.”
Soldier 4: “That’s from ‘Conan the Barbarian.’ I just always wanted to say that.”
- “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.”
Hank: Heroic SPC Billy Lynn and his fellow Bravo team soldiers confront the American press machine in director Ang Lee’s sorely under-estimated Iraq-War drama, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” Naturally, the soldiers avoid telling the media any of the uncomfortable truths us civilians would rather avoid, and so they answer with safe, charming platitudes–
Cousin Franz: And safe, charming platitudes is what this movie delivers.
Hank: I’m still introducing the movie, Cousin Franz, if I may, but thanks for the commentary! Anyway, it’s 2004. 19-year-old Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) and his buds in Bravo team are being showered with adulation during a nice American victory tour, largely because of a viral video that captured Billy in heroic mode, attempting to save an ambushed sergeant who was also his spiritual mentor (Vin Diesel).
Cousin Franz: Typical Vin Diesel mentoring line: “It doesn’t have to be God, and it doesn’t have to be Country, but you have to live for something Bigger than Yourself.” Safe, charming platitudes, like I said.
Hank: Guh. I haven’t even finished with the synopsis of the movie, but thanks for interrupting again! You know, Cousin Franz, the Army offers a plethora of exciting career opportunities, and it will take in practically any able-bodied, unemployed ne’er do well. Just something to consider.
Tracey: Sure! As long as they happen to fit the cisgender agenda imposed by our lying, tyrannical, transphobic leaders!
Grandpa Felicius: Goodness gracious, can’t we just watch a nice movie about the Righteous War Against the Hadjis without bringing politics into it?
Hank: As I was saying! The young soldiers are paraded in triumph during an NFL game in Dallas, and the movie contrasts their internal turmoil with the glib way in which they’re perceived by the Average Joe, who may never understand why Billy and Co. start shaking whenever there’s loud noises or flashing lights.
Cousin Franz: For better or worse, much of the conversation around the movie touches on its production process- which doomed it to flop. Ang Lee, bent on improving upon the technical achievements of “Life of Pi,” shot this at 120 frames per second. Consider that, for most of the history of cinema, 24 frames per second was enough to create a believable simulacrum of motion. Peter Jackson used 48 fps in his “Hobbit” trilogy. Lee almost TRIPLES that, which means that, IN THEORY, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” at 120 fps, 3D, 4K is one of the most immersive, life-like experiences the cinema has ever provided. In PRACTICE? There were maybe three movie theaters in the U.S. that could project that upon premiere: the AMC Lincoln Square in NYC, and the Arclight theater in Hollywood, and another in Dallas. The rest of us plebes will watch in 2-D, 24 fps format and wonder if we missed some “immersiveness.” Which is a pity, because “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” has heart and humor and sadness in any format- along with all those safe, charming platitudes.
Hank: I STILL haven’t finished the synopsis, @#%$#!!! Billy’s sister (Kristen Stewart) is trying to help Billy overcome the stigma of PTSD, while a fast-talking producer (Chris Tucker) is trying to get a studio interested in the Bravo team story. Dreams of Hollywood fame might be premature. Only a tight-fisted, two-faced Texan businessman (Steve Martin) seems to be biting so far.
Tracey: Joe Alwyn is really sweet in his movie debut, (he’s a Brit playing a Texan!) And the whole Bravo team is made of likable people whose love and bond is obvious. Kristen Stewart is here too, and she has more chemistry in a few scenes with Alwyn than she did with Robert Pattinson in all 5 “Twilight” movies. (It’s not her fault: I’m obviously the only person who can TRULY have chemistry with Robbie. I UNDERSTAND his pain.)
Beatricia: Chemistry, however, is a BAD thing when Kristen is supposed to play Billy’s concerned sister, but she more frequently acts like an unsatisfied ex-wife trying to push him into marriage counseling. I guess that’s how Texans rolls!
Hank: Et tu, kiddo? Et tu, babe? Can I at least finish explaining the premise of the movie?!? ANYWAY, the Bravo boys ARE going to be featured in the NFL Halftime Show with Destiny’s Child, and that’s what the movie’s satire is building up to: the climactic moment when traumatized veterans get swallowed up by a materialistic pop culture and become a mere backdrop to Beyonce’s bootyliciousness! (The movie is based on the acclaimed satirical novel by Ben Fountain, and here reality and fiction merge because if I recall correctly, Destiny’s Child DID perform their song “Soldier” during the Halftime Show in 2004, accompanied by soldiers in the background!)
Beatricia: What? I don’t think so, Hanky. This movie needs to get its facts straight if it wants to be taken seriously. Superbowl XXXVIII, February 2004, was NOT Destiny’s Child. That was the year of Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson, and the infamous “wardrobe malfunction.” Everyone knows!
Hank: Uh, babe, it’s you who got your facts wrong! The movie takes place during the THANKSGIVING show, not the SUPERBOWL. The featured act that year was definitely Destiny’s Child. Beyonce, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle-Williams-not-the-actress.
Beatricia: … Is that so.
Hank: It is! Sorry?
Beatricia: Why should you be sorry? When I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and if you feel the need to make me look foolish in front of everyone, who could possibly stop you? Don’t give it another thought, Hanky. The matter is forgotten.
Hank: Is it?
Beatricia: Of course it is not. We will get back to it later at length and in private.
Trent: Dad, you need to join the Army, like, NOW! Get yourself to a safe place, like Fallujah. Pronto, private, run! As for this movie, I can’t decide if it is pro-war or anti-war. Anti-War Message: You could totally DIE in a desert somewhere for no discernible reason, and it wouldn’t be fun. Pro-War Message: But if you DON’T die in the desert and you DO make it back, then a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader played by Mackenzie Leigh will dutifully bang you out of sheer patriotism. MIXED EMOTIONS!!!
Grandpa Felicius: *cough cough* SO! Tracey, what were you complaining about? Not enough Transformers in the military? I will state for the record that “Billie Jean Walks for a Long Hard Time” is a heartfelt tribute to how much walking our boys in uniform have to do, and in army issue boots no less. Cherry!
Blurbarella: “I Don’t Think You’re Ready– For the Jelly of War.”
4 out of 6 Cherries