Tuesday, 14 February 2017

REVIEW - BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK (ANG LEE)


The grandest folly of all on the grandest scale of all. Ever a fresh, innovative filmmaker, Ang Lee has here wedded himself to a technical undertaking of such magnitude it seems to overwhelm even him. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk composites dazzling aesthetics over derisory dialogue, a bizarre jumble of perspectives both narrative and visual, a film in which each performer seems to have read a different script, each shot serving a different purpose, each scene adopting a different character. If Lee can't but indulge himself, it's to his credit - only through the remarkable panache with which he wields his limitless arsenal of tools as director can Billy Lynn's essential thematic tenor be expressed. For every element that hits, there's another that misses, though when each concurrent element is in perfect alignment, this is a glorious work of bravura ambition. In its wayward attempts at forging a narrative scope on par with its visionary technical design, Billy Lynn dulls its impact with an array of substandard subplots; their influence is of little cumulative value, as it's only under Lee's guidance that its poignancy begins to take effect. He steers a mildly militaristic script in a few wrong directions of its own, but in pursuing a commentary upon the commodification of war and the identity-related damage it causes to the individual, he's eloquent and persuasive. As enlivened by its startling technical construction as it is hampered by corniness and a problematic approach to gender representation - epitomized in appalling scenes with the title character's love interest - Billy Lynn comes off like a crazed cartoon, a case of too many cooks with too many ideas spoiling the comic book, and it's the closest thing Lee has made to his own, underrated comic book movie, Hulk. Maybe it's a too-big, brave step into new frontiers, or maybe it's just a fascinating folly. Just ignore the public's own ignorance, and trust me: this is, for good or bad, a must-see movie.