HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
HTS Overall Score:80
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]The most intriguing and biggest feature of “Billy Lynn’s” production was the use of the CineAlta F65 digital cameras used by Ang Lee to shoot at a staggering 120 fps during the shoot. While the 4K version boasts a 60fps version on the disc, the Blu-ray is mastered down to the regular 24fps that the format supports and doesn’t look that much different than your average digital film. Sure it looks a bit glossy and almost “sports central” smooth, but all in all it looks like your average digital shoot. That is to say that it is spot on PERFECT in terms of Blu-ray imagery. Colors just pop off the screen like you wouldn’t believe and I almost swore I was in the room with them the clarity was so good. There is a sense of realism that is breathtaking and the changing scenarios from Afghanistan to Texas allows for some distinct color changes depending on the local. Blacks are deep and inky (the actual halftime SHOW sports some incredibly complex shadows being shot at night) and the film is devoid of ANY digital artifacting that I could see except for a split second shot at the beginning of the movie. Simply put, magically perfect.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=91089[/img]Once again Sony has decided to keep the Blu-ray at a standard 5.1 DTS-HD MA experience while putting the Atmos track on the Blu-ray. That’s not to say that the 5.1 mix is bad, but it’s been a frustration with Sony and Fox leaving the superior track off the Blu-ray in hopes that you upgrade to the 4K. The 5.1 mix is simply superb, and would have garnered a 5/5 rating a short while back, but the 4K mix DEFINITELY edges it out. Imaging is magnificent, with sounds of war torn gunfire splattering around the sound stage during the flashbacks, and the raucous Halftime show with Destiny’s Child creating one of the singular best moments of sonic immersion I have heard in a Blu-ray. The LFE is deep and powerful, accenting gunfire and explosions at will, and having a MASSIVE mid bass burst right as the halftime show starts near the hour mark (you’ll know it when you hear it). Dialog is still well replicated and firmly planted up front and the dynamic range is absolutely massive. We can witch to a screaming and raging football scene in one second and then flip back to a quiet home cooked meal the next and never feel awkward. A superb mix by Sony.
• 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. While disappointed I have to say that the Blu-ray looks FANTASTIC (the 60fps version is available on the 4K disc) and the audio follows suit. Extras are a bit minimalistic, but still very solid. While it may be worth a rental out of curiosity, the movie itself generates a “Skip It” recommendation from myself personally.
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 AVC
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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