Movie Date: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (M18)
This war drama will elicit opposing views, regardless of how huge a Lee Ang fan you are.
STARRING: Joe Alwyn, Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin
DIRECTOR: Lee Ang
THE SKINNY: Army specialist Billy Lynn (Alwyn) returns from Iraq for a victory tour that culminates in a half-time tribute at a Thanks giving football game. Labelled a hero by the media after trying to save his comrade Shroom (Diesel) who is killed in action, Billy finds his allegiance torn between his fellow soldiers and sister Kathryn (Stewart). She urges him to remain in Texas and seek help for his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
MARS by JASON JOHNSON
I think this is one of Lee Ang's best films.
It is even one of the best war movies I've seen.
One of the things that makes it so special is the way it explores the relationship between soldiers and civilians - a conversation long overdue, particularly in the US.
People make a big show of "supporting the troops", but in reality most couldn't care less. It's a political stance, not real human caring.
The NFL half-time show in which our young protagonists are forced to participate is a tacky travesty.
On stage, they're overshadowed by Destiny's Child. Behind the scenes, they're mistreated and disrespected by the organisers and the crowd.
If you really think about it, why would people who care about you want you to fight in a war?
The irony is that it's the peaceniks, like Stewart's character, who care about the fate of the fighters.
Another thing I really love about the flick is its dreamy, surreal tone.
Film-makers tend to aim for gritty realism in your typical war movie but Lee is going for something grander, more poetic. He's leached the story of visceral thrills and what's left behind is a sardonic sadness.
For those interested, the film was shot at a much higher frame rate in a much higher resolution than normal, giving it a vivid presence.
VENUS by TAN KEE YUN
I never thought I'd ever describe a Lee Ang movie as boring, but this is a snoozefest.
I've always been a fan of his works - from Pushing Hands (1992) to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) to Life of Pi (2012).
A two-time Best Director Academy award winner, Lee can handle vastly differing styles with an equally deft touch.
If there is one film-maker who can pull off a wuxia masterpiece as expertly as he does a sexually-charged espionage thriller (remember 2007's Lust, Caution?), it would have to be Lee.
This is a massive let-down on several fronts.
The biggest problem is that Lee didn't have much of a storyline to work with. From start to end, which is nearly two hours in running time, the audience is placed in Lynn's shoes to feel his struggle with post-war trauma.
No one should trivialise the effects of PTSD. However, two hours is seriously long when all we get are tons of close-ups of Lynn's pained facial expressions and repetitive flashbacks of Iraq battle scenes.
It doesn't help that the film's dialogue is clunky and clichéd. With the exception of Stewart, most of the acting is rather sub-par too.
And couldn't Lee have chosen a better protagonist? Alwyn is a looker, but he is no leading man material.
THE CONSENSUS: This war drama will elicit opposing views, regardless of how huge a Lee Ang fan you are.