A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is a book-based war drama from Oscar-winning director Ang Lee. Expect heavy war violence, including shooting, stabbing, explosions, bloody wounds, and dying. There's also some fighting back home. A young couple kisses, and there's lots of sex talk (references to "getting laid," strippers, oral sex, being a virgin, masturbating, etc.). Language is also very strong, with very frequent use of "f--k," "s--t," and more. Teenage character smoke pot, and there's some beer drinking and a reference to steroids. Though the movie's ultimate message is up for debate, it raises some big questions and could inspire discussions about war, heroism, and other topics. Some theaters are showing an ultra-high frame-rate version in 3D, which some have said is distracting; the normal 2D version is preferred.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK, the title character (Joe Alwyn) is a 19-year-old serving as an Army Specialist in an eight-man unit in Iraq. An act of bravery is captured on camera, and Billy becomes a national hero. His unit comes home for a victory tour, culminating with an appearance at the Thanksgiving Day Dallas Cowboys football game. While there, Billy flashes back to his war experiences, meets a beautiful cheerleader (Makenzie Leigh), tries to negotiate a movie deal with an agent (Chris Tucker), and has a crisis of conscience as his sister (Kristen Stewart) urges him not to return to the war. Memories of his spiritual-minded sergeant (Vin Diesel) and the presence of his current sergeant (Garrett Hedlund) spur Billy in a different direction.
Is it any good?
Award-winning director Ang Lee assembles a collection of effective scenes in this serious effort, but it also several moments that don't really work; in the end, it doesn't seem to add up to much. The camaraderie between Billy Lynn and his unit is infectious, and the movie -- based on the novel by Ben Fountain -- has some fine performances, but they're within a vacuum. One of the movie's many points is that other characters don't know how to interact with the soldiers. And so every interaction, whether good or bad, is left with a question mark.
With Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Lee falls into the same trap that so many other makers of war films do; he wants to be respectful of the troops who fight but also condemn the futility and misery of war. The result is numbingly neutral. Technically, Lee's work is fine, but it doesn't help that he insisted on filming in a super-high frame rate and in 3D, which gives the effect of looking extra-fake and being quite distracting. The normal, 24fps, 2D presentation is preferable, but even that can't stop the disappointing after-effect of an otherwise ambitious movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
What does the movie have to say about being a soldier? Is it possible for civilians to understand their experiences?
What is Billy Lynn's choice during the movie? What does he ultimately decide? Why do you think he makes this decision?
- In theaters: November 11, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: February 14, 2017
- Cast: Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund, Joe Alwyn
- Director: Ang Lee
- Studios: Sony Pictures Releasing, TriStar Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout, some war violence, sexual content, and brief drug use
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