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“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” will have a World Premiere at the 2016 New York Film Festival

billy lynns long halftime walk joe alswyn

Just a few minutes ago, news broke that the 54th New York Film Festival will play host to a big time unveiling of a major Academy Award contender. Yes, NYFF will be where Ang Lee’s next movie, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, will have its World Premiere. The 54th installment of this fest has already announced a trio of premieres, opening with The 13th, hitting its midpoint with 20th Century Women, and closing with The Lost City of Z, so this is very much like an added bonus. At the same time, it’s now easily the most high profile flick screening and an Oscar hopeful title worth paying a great deal of attention to.

For those wondering, the film is an adaptation of the well regarded novel of the same name by Ben Fountain. Set mostly during Thanksgiving Day, it follows the title character Billy Lynn (newcomer Joe Alwyn) and his platoon as they’re honored during the halftime show of a Dallas Cowboys football game for their heroism. As Billy and his fellow soldiers are feted, he flashes back on what really happened back in Iraq, which has shaken him to his core. There’s also time spent with his protective sister Kathryn (Kristen Stewart), who wants him to stay home and not go back to war. For the most part, Billy and his crew just deal with the dichotomy of being labeled a hero back home and the actions that got them there while abroad. It’s really a surprisingly intimate character study, though I suspect the war flashbacks will be pretty visceral. Lee obviously directs, with the adaptation penned by Jean-Christophe Castelli. Besides Alwyn and Stewart, the cast includes Steve Martin, Vin Diesel, Garrett Hedlund, Chris Tucker, Tim Blake Nelson, Makenzie Leigh, Beau Knapp, and many more. Cinematography is by John Toll.

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This surprise announcement, not in the mold of the festival’s Secret Screenings in years past (like with Hugo, Lincoln, and While We’re Young), is very interesting. It’s closer to how things like 12 Years a Slave and The Martian were added as screenings while the fest was already underway. This sort of splits the difference and allows both of those situations to go down again (if it happens, perhaps there will be another Martin Scorsese centric Secret Screening with Silence?), while also giving Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk a special distinction all its own. That’s really a sign of confidence in the material, to say the least.

In terms of awards, I think you have to look at this one as an across the board contender and a potential frontrunner if NYFF launches it as a big time success. Barring a disaster, campaigns will be launched in Best Picture, Best Director (for Lee), Best Actor (for Alwyn), Best Supporting Actor (for Diesel, Hedlund, Martin, and/or Tucker), Best Supporting Actress (for Stewart), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Castelli), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects. It’s still too early to say where it will hit just yet, but assuming the quality is there like the Trailer suggests, contention for multiple nominations shouldn’t be much of a struggle.

Overall, the fest just added a major player on the awards front and easily one of 2016’s most highly anticipated works. Depending on how the screening goes, there could be some huge buzz emerging from NYFF when this occurs. I’ll be there and can’t wait to see how Lee’s new film plays, so be sure to look out for that once the screening date arrives. In the meantime, sit tight for plenty more details on the movie, the festival, and the impending precursor season. It’s a really exciting time and it’s only going to get more exciting in the next few months…

billy lynns long halftime walk joe alswyn
Stay tuned for lots more on Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk and NYFF in the weeks to come!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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