HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
HTS Overall Score:84
Ang Lee has always been a director that is hit or miss. We’ve got some MASSIVE hits on his resume, like “Sense and Sensibility”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, and “Life of Pi”. But the man has been known to strike out in an epic fashion before too. Things like “Hulk” and “Taking Woodstock” have made me a bit leery of just accepting that his upcoming films will be great, and I have taken a more cautious approach to watching his movies. “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” (and that title is about as long as Billy Lynn’s actual walk almost) was all the buzz about 6 months ago, when it was revealed that Ang Lee was going to be filming in a wild 120 frames per second. Everyone was jawing about how it was going to look different than 24fps film, and how even Peter Jackson only shot at 48fps with his “Hobbit” movies etc etc. etc. It became obvious that this was more of an experimental film for Lee than actually about making a GOOD movie, and the theatrical reviews pretty much confirmed my fears. I am pirating a quote I saw some time ago that sums up my feelings about “Billy Lynn’s” quite succinctly. “The film sounded like a FANTASTIC idea on paper. A great tribute to American war heroes who have risked their life for ours, but what was supposed to be a fantastic tribute became an absolutely excruciatingly painful watch on film”.
The film revolves around a group of soldiers fighting the war on terror who are randomly caught on camera during a firefight. 19-year-old Private Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) is seen dragging sergeant Shroom (Vin Diesel) out of a massive firefight with great personal risk to himself. Subsequently, Billy and the rest of his company (dubbed Bravo Company) are thrust into the limelight when the video makes circulation in the States. Now they’re back home in Texas for a public tour at a thanksgiving football game to be the belles of the ball for the half time show. The only thing is that Billy and the rest of his crew aren’t exactly “normal” after their time away from war. Each of them is dealing with the pain and horrors of what they have witnessed in different ways. Billy is suffering from mild PTSD (probably they all were) and his sister (Kristen Stewart) is begging him to go see a doctor so that he can be honorably discharged and NOT go back to the war. Others in his company put on a brave face, but the strangeness of being back in the states where no one is shooting at you can manifest in many different ways.
To top it all off, the fans are fawning and gushing about their heroism, completely oblivious to the fact that these men don’t see the actions out there as “heroic” or “cool” like the video game and movie obsessed civilians in the stadium stands. Some of them are well meaning and none of them mean any harm (except for a couple of morons who try to rib the guys the wrong way), but it’s hard to relate to men who have seen actual battle when you’ve sat on the side lines the entire time. When their time in the spotlight comes, it’s almost a battle of wills to stand up there with explosive fireworks going off all around them and the whole spectacle bringing back feelings and emotions that are better off buried rather than ripped open in the middle of a football game.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91073[/img]As I said, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” probably sounded good on paper. We’re getting back into the war film genre once more and there have been some REALLY good wartime films hitting the market recently. “Hacksaw Ridge” is one of THE best in the genre and was my 2016 film of the year, and the trailer for “Billy Lynn’s” looked pretty solid. Sadly, it is an excruciatingly boring and painful watching experience. Ang Lee handles the subtlety and nuance of soldier’s and the trials they deal with in normal civilian life with the delicacy of a cement truck going through an Ikea. Everything on screen on is big syrupy, sappy, emotional melodrama that feels more at home in “Days of our Lives” or those religious films that have the right message, but not the right touch. Basically, a Hallmark movie to the core. Billy is a decent enough character, but his story is so fragmented with Ang Lee’s direction that there is no emotional connection.
Sadly it’s not the case of bad acting (at least not for all the actors). Joe Alwyn does a solid job with Billy himself, making him a relatable character, and Garret Hedlund actually is a surprisingly good commander for his company. I’m not usually a fan of Hedlund, but this was one of his better roles to date. It was a blast to see people like Steve Martin and Chris Tucker make appearances as minor characters, and they were as flawless as they could be. The only REALLY bad acting was with Kristen Stewart, who still thinks showing emotion means looking constipated and spending the rest of her dialog looking like she smoked a few too many bowls before coming on set. With that being said, It’s pretty obvious that Ang Lee was more concerned about making an experimental film with his 120hz framerate and the obvious moments where the camera was whoring itself out to getting that “look” captured on screen and not enough time was spent making a good story.
Rated R for language throughout, some war violence, sexual content, and brief drug use
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91081[/img]Now, here’s the fun part. Ange Lee filmed “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” in 120 fps cameras and then transferred to a full 4K digital intermediary where the master was struck. Due to even 4K UHD’s limitations, the film was put on 60fps, which is simply jaw dropping in its clarity. Although, I have to say that 60fps for a movie just seems WRONG. I know some people like it, but the high frame rate makes everything look overly smooth and way too much like a soap opera. The appeal is supposedly it looks more “realistic”, but it takes away that magic that 24fps filming has always given us. On the flip side, the higher frame rate completely gets rid of panning judder and the result is an image that is as silky smooth as they come. The HDR really is fantastic her with colors that are so vibrant and lifelike I had my jaw hanging on the floor the entire movie. Saturation is rich, but it’s a type of richness that does not feel overdone so that the colors are almost blooming. Everything is so pristine and crystal clear that you can almost touch the image. Textures are tactile on screen and you feel like this isn’t a movie, but a window into real life at times. black levels are SICKENLY deep and the lack of crush while still having blacker than black blacks is nothing short of revelationary.
I'm not usually a bit fan of 3D, but with the ultra high frame rate that Ang Lee shot the movie in, "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" looks REALLY impressive in that particular format. the 1.85:1 MVC encoded 3D film is superb, with amazing depth throughout the film. There are scenes when the crew is on stage during the actual halftime show that rival some of the best I have ever seen in that department. The same goes for when Brave Company is pinned down in the sandbox, as you can see the layers for the buildings and humvees popping off the screen at differing points. colors are still warm and fully saturated like the 2D presentation, and there doesn't appear to be any dimming of the screen as is the case with a lot of 3D presentations. Again, I must iterate that I am NOT a big fan of 3D, but this is one of THE best 3D presentations I've seen to date. The high end digital cameras used and the high frame rates very well me the "culprit" here and could be the key to giving us glasses less 3D in the near future. (side note, the 3D Blu-ray also has the 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix that the 2D Blu-ray review had, and not the Atmos mix that is included for the 4K UHD disc of this combo set)
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91089[/img]While the 2D (and 3D) Blu-ray of the film contains a standard 5.1 mix, Sony has given the 4K UHD the golden treatment with ROCKING Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core) that is simply AMAZING. If you’ve read the review of the Blu-ray you know that I was wildly impressed with the 5.1 mix, but the Atmos track kicks it up a notch with impeccable use of the soundstage. The Halftime show is off the hook with all 11 speakers showing incredible directional shifting throughout and the rear speakers adding a wonderful layer of immersion that was missing. The overheads actually get a solid amount of workout with the sounds of fireworks popping overhead, or the sounds of a helicopter thudding in the overhead background. LFE is just as powerful and gut busting as you would imagine and that hour mark still is one of the best LFE points in the entire film. Dialog is strong and clean, and the dynamic range takes no prisoners, maybe even wider than the 2D’s 5.1 mix. Perfection, that’s all there is to it.
• 4K Ultra HD Exclusive Special Feature – 4K Featurette with Ang Lee and Time Squyres discussing the film's groundbreaking frame rate technology
• Deleted Scenes
• "Into Battle and Onto the Field: Stepping Inside Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk"
• "Recreating the Halftime Show"
• "The Brotherhood of Combat"
• "Assembling A Cast"
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is not a train wreck of a film, but it is so inconsequential as to be totally irrelevant in the film world. You’re left feeling completely empty and rather bored by the time the nearly 2-hour film is completed. I honestly have a hard time have ANY sense of emotion, either good or bad, after watching it a total of THREE times (once for the 4K, once for this Blu-ray and once for the 3D version), and each and every time I really TRY and muster up some sense of emotional appeal. Sadly, it just is one of those films that “exists” without being anymore more than a footnote in cinematic history. The 4K version is still a PHENOMENAL looking image, but the use of the 60 fps looks strangely weird to my eyes. However, the increase in clarity and the addition of the Atmos track make it a worthy upgrade from the 1080p disc, and the addition of an exclusive extra only sweetens the pot. Unfortunately, I really can't recommend the film anymore than I did when it was on Blu-ray and the inclusion 3D does nothing to sway my opinion. No matter WHICH of the 3 versions of the film you're watching, the movie just "blah". Skip it.
Starring: Joe Alwyn, Vin Diesel, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart
Directed by: Ang Lee
Written by: Jean-Christopher Castelli (Screenplay), Ben Fountain (Based on Story by)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 HEVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DVS
Runtime: 113 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 14th, 2017
Buy Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk On Blu-ray at Amazon
Buy Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk On 4K Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Skip It
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