Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Movie Poster Image
Violent war-hero drama has too many scattered ideas.
  • R
  • 2016
  • 110 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Raises big questions. Is a soldier's duty to his fellow soldiers, to his family, or to something else? Can a person who hasn't been to war connect with someone who has? Is honor deserving of a certain amount of money? Is war futile?

Positive Role Models & Representations

Billy Lynn is a decorated hero who demonstrates bravery in the face of combat. But the movie also argues/shows that his act of bravery doesn't add up to much (he calls it the worst day of his life) and that he doesn't ilike a hero. Some use of negative stereotyping, i.e. calling Iraqis "Haji," talk of gays in the military, etc.

Violence

Scenes of intense war violence, with shooting and stabbing, explosions, bloody wounds, and dying. A soldier puts the "sleeper hold" on a civilian. Fighting, punching.

Sex

Passionate kissing between a soldier and a cheerleader. Lots of sex talk, strong innuendo. Talk of strippers, oral sex, getting laid, being a virgin, masturbating, etc. Shots of Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, objectified, in skimpy costumes. Ad for erectile dysfunction medicine.

Language

Very strong language. Many uses of "f--k," "s--t," and various permutations. Also "ass," "hell," "douchebag," "d--k," "penis," "shut up," "butt."

Consumerism

Reference to Red Bull, reference to Hummer vehicle.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters (apparently 19 years old) smoke pot. Characters drink beer. Reference to steroids.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byPAUL S. November 1, 2017

THERE'S WORSE THINGS THAN FOUR LETTER WORDS

This film pretty faithfully follows the course of events in the book but falls short in two ways. It underplays Billy's sister's efforts to get him to... Continue reading

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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 ...

  • Families can talk about Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk's violence. How realistic is it? Do you think it was intended to be shocking or thrilling? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • 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?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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