War films as a genre is picking up in Hollywood lately, and there is no dearth of material considering that the USA has been involved in a war too many. But instead of playing out the entire war, the movies are focusing on individuals or specific events, aiming to showcase that side of the war which you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Most recently, the story of a sniper in American Sniper has had the American audience spell-bound. Another movie around the Iraq war, which is about to go into production, is being handled by the two-time Oscar winning director, Ang Lee.
Ang Lee’s last film was the highly successful Life of Pi which released in late 2012, and went on to be a huge box-office success apart from landing a Best Director Academy Award for Lee for the second time. For his next project, Lee has again decided to adapt a novel, though this time he is moving away from magical realism to something more contemporary. The book which he has chosen is titled Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, written by Ben Fountain and published in 2012. The story is a dark satire which follows 19-year-old Texas-born infantryman Billy Lynn and his fellow U.S. servicemen who survive a firefight in Iraq in 2005. Celebrated as heroes, they are brought home by the US administration for a promotional tour that culminates at the halftime show of a Thanksgiving Day football game in Texas, before they are returned to the war. The movie is said to take place almost entirely during the game, with flashes away to other events.
The screenplay for the movie has been written by Simon Beaufoy, who has worked in the past with Danny Boyle on the screenplays of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, winning an Oscar for the former and being nominated for the latter. So it is easy to say that the writing work for Ang Lee’s upcoming movie is in safe hands.
Ang Lee does not necessarily work with the big acting names of the industry, and his next film will be no different. The lead role of Billy Lynn will be played by the newcomer Joe Alwyn. He has no past feature films to talk about, and not even a photo on Imdb as of now. There are two relatively bigger names in the cast though; one is of Steve Martin though his role is unknown, and the other is of Kristen Stewart who is reported to be in negotiations to come onboard. We haven’t seen Steve Martin on-screen for quite a while, and so the reentry of the 70-year old veteran would be a wonderful sight. While his role has been kept under wraps, some reports suggest he would be playing a Hollywood wheeler-dealer who tries to set up a movie based on Billy Lynn’s experiences during the war. Kristen Stewart is lining up the role of Kathryn, Billy’s older sister. Stewart has come a long way in recent years from the Twilight series, and has been taking up many serious roles, in indie flicks as well as studio backed movies. Her inclusion in Ang Lee’s movie would do no harm indeed.
The shooting for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is scheduled to begin in this month of April. If things go smoothly, the movie might even be in the race for the Oscars by the end of the year. If not, then a 2016 release is definitely on the cards. The movie is going to be on the ‘watchlist’ of many Hollywood lovers, considering the reputation of its director and the topic that the movie is going to touch upon. Ang Lee may have excelled at visually brilliant and lavish films like Life of Pi and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but do not forget how well he depicted a serious-toned topic in the 2005 movie Brokeback Mountain. It would be interesting to observe how Ang Lee handles the touchy topic of the Iraq war in his movie. But be rest assured, it would be an entertaining and meaningful watch.