Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (a J!-ENT 4K Ultra HD Review)
February 9, 2017 by Dennis Amith
Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” may have not won me over compared to his other films but I did enjoy the artistic freedom of using technology and the highest film FPS and trying something fresh and different compared to other films shot digitally. Storywise, it may not be a heavy-hitting war film, but “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” does manage to capture brotherhood at arms, American war propaganda and the distorted perception of heroism. A film worth checking out!
© 2016 Columbia Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
DATE OF FILM RELEASE: 2016
DURATION: 113 Minutes
BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 2160p Ultra High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio), English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French, Portuguese, Thai, English and French Audio Description Tracks 5.1 Dolby Digital. SUBTITLES: English, English SDH, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Czech, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Korean, Portuguese (Classic), Spanish (Castilan and Latin American) and Thai.
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: R (Language Throughout, Some War Violence, Sexual Content and Brief Drug Use)
RELEASE DATE: February 14, 2017
Based on the Novel by Ben Fountain
Directed by Ang Lee
Written by Jean-Christophe Castelli
Producer: Stephen Cornwell, Ang Lee, Marc Platt, Rhodri Thomas
Executive Producer: Brian Bell, Guo Guangchang, Jeff Robinov, Ben Walsbren
Associate Producer: Alexei Boltho, Simon Cornwell, Ben Fountain, David Kosse, David Lee
Music by Jeff Danna, Mychael Danna
Cinematography by John Toll
Edited by Tim Squyres
Casting by Salah Benchegra, Shay Griffin, Avy Kaufman
Production Design by Mark Friedberg
Art Direction by Gregory S. Hooper, Kim Jennings, Thomas Minton, Aziz Rafiq
Set Decoration by Elizabeth Keenan
Costume Design by Joseph G. Aulisi
Joe Alwyn as Billy
Garrett Hedlund as Dime
Arturo Castro as Mango
Mason Lee as Foo
Astro as Lodis
Beau Knapp as Crack
Ismael Cruz Cordova as Holliday
Barney Harris as Sykes
Vin Diesel as Shroom
Steve Martin as Norm
Chris Tucker as Albert
Kristen Stewart as Kathryn
Makenzie Leigh as Faison
Ben Platt as Josh
Bruce McKinnon as Billy’s Father
Deirdre Lovejoy as Billy’s Mother
Laura Lundy Wheale as Patty Lynn
Allen Daniel as Major Mac
Academy Award® winner Ang Lee (2012, Best Director, Life Of Pi ) brings his extraordinary vision to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, based on the widely-acclaimed, bestselling novel. The story is told from the point of view of 19-year-old private Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) who, along with his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad, becomes a hero after a harrowing battle in Iraq and is brought home temporarily for a victory tour. Through a sequence of flashbacks the truth about what really a happened is revealed – contrasting the realities of the war with America’s distorted perceptions of heroism. Co-starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, with Vin Diesel, and Steve Martin.
In 2012, award-winning writer Ben Fountain wrote his debut novel “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”.
Published in 2012, the novel received critical acclaim and won several awards, including the National Book Critics Award for Fiction, the 2012 National Book Award and Fountain would win the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize.
This would lead to a British-American war film adaptation directed by Ang Lee (“Life of Pi”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Brokeback mountain”, “The Ice Storm”, “Hulk”) and a screenplay by Jean-Christophe Castelli (“Sense and Sensibility”, “Life of Pi”, “The Ice Storm”).
The film stars Joe Alwyn (“The Sense of an Ending”,”A Higher Education”, “Keepers”), Garrett Hedlund (“Tron: Legacy”, “Unbroken”, “Four Brothers”, “Troy”), Arturo Castro (“Bushwick”), Mason Lee (“The Hangover Part II”), Astro (“Earth to Echo”, “A Walk Among the Tombstones”), Beau Knapp (“The Nice Guys”, “Southpaw”, “Super 8”), Ismael Cruz Cordova (“In the Blood”, “Exposed”), Barney Harris (“The Hollow Crown”, “Billionaire’s Boys Club”, “All Roads Lead to Rome”), Vin Diesel (“xXx” films, “Fast & Furious” films), Steve Martin (“The Jerk”, “Bowfinger”, “The Pink Panther” films, “Cheaper by the Dozen” films), Chris Tucker (“Rush Hour” films, “Silver Linings”, “The Fifth Element”), Kristen Stewart (“Twilight” films, “Snow White and the Huntsman”), Makenzie Leigh (“The Slap”, “Gotham”) and Ben Platt (“Pitch Perfect” films, “Ricki and the Flash”).
The film had its world premiere at the 54th New York Film Festival and was released in 3D in theaters courtesy of TriStar Pictures.
The film begins with showing 19-year-old Army specialist Billy Lynn (portrayed by Joe Alwyn) of “Bravo Squad” from Texas dragging his wounded Sergeant Virgil “Shroom” Breem (portrayed by Vin Diesel) to safety during a firefight with enemies in Iraq.
While Shroom did not survive, the act of courage makes Billy an American hero, including his fellow soldiers of Bravo Squad. And now each of them are on a nationwide tour which will end at the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving home game halftime show.
As Billy visits his family at home, his sister Kathryn (potrayed by Kristen Stewart) and we learn through a flashback that the reason that Billy joined the military because he destroyed the car of his sister’s boyfriend, who dumped her after she was in a car accident that required multiple facial reconstruction procedures. And after destroying the car, he was given a choice to serve time or join the military and Billy chose to join the military.
But Kathryn wants her brother to no longer fight because he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and wants him to be honorably discharged, so that he doesn’t have to go back to Iraq. And she feels guilty that he had to go to war in Iraq because of her.
As film producer Albert Brown (portrayed by Chris Tucker) tries to secure a film deal for the men of Bravo Squad, they meetup with Dallas Cowboys PR representative Josh (portrayed by Ben Platt) to the stadium.
While at the stadium, during the press conference, Billy falls for a cheerleader named Faison (portrayed by Makenzie Leigh), meanwhile meeting the owners of the Cowboys, Norm Oglesby (portrayed by Steve Martin), which Albert is hoping will investing in his film about the incident in Iraq.
How will the day go for Billy and his fellow soldiers of Bravo Squad as they prepare for the big halftime show?
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is presented in 2160p High Definition (1:85:1). The film is presented in 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray 3D and on normal Blu-ray.
The film received a lot of attention from videophiles as filmmaker Ang Lee made sure the film was shot with a projection frame rate of 120 frames per second in 3D at 4K HD resolution. Especially as Lee wanted to make sure the film was “immersive” and “realistic” as possible. So, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” was the first feature film ever to be shot with a high frame rate (this film was 120fps, the last film to be shot with a high fps was “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” which was shot at 48 fps).
So, because the film was shot with a high fps, another major direction Ang Lee wanted to accomplish is that no make-up was allowed, so the make-up artist Luis Abel found a way to use make-up by using a silicone-based makeup that can see through skin.
Having watched this film in several formats, first let’s discuss the 4K Ultra HD. Picture quality is fantastic and I can see where Ang Lee wanted to keep things real, as characters are not glammed up. They are depicted like normal people and for the most part, may it be inside a stadium or outdoors during a major firefight, the film looks great in 4K! It’s important to note that while the film was shot in 120 fps, it is presented in 4K Ultra HD in 60 fps.
With that being said, I think for some people, without the grain and the usual look of film that may turn a few people off. It may look too realistic, so it is subjective to the viewing audience. As many people are used to watching film shot in digital, this film no doubt looks different. And it’s the first film that tries to capture realism. It’s just whether or not you enjoy it or not.
Watching the film via 3D Blu-ray, since the film was shot originally in 3D, the depth perception is fantastic! May it be Billy waiting behind Destiny’s Child or during a firefight and seeing the machine gun bullets flying in the air. I’m not a huge fan of 3D films on Blu-ray as a lot of it tends to get banal, but I enjoyed watching “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” in 3D.
And of course, the film is also featured on Blu-ray and you also get to an UltraViolet code to watch the film in Digital HD.
IMPORTANT TO KNOW: To watch 4K Ultra HD, you will need a 4K UHD TV with HDR and an Ultra HD Blu-ray Player + a high-speed HDMI 2.0A Cable.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is presented in English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French, Portuguse, Russian, Thai, English and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio Description Track.
While the film features crystal clear audio and music, surround channels are well-utilized for crowd atmosphere, especially during the half-time sequence, but also during the war-based action sequences. This is a lossless soundtrack that really does take advantage of an immersive soundspace.
You can expect bullets whizzing, hitting and flying everywhere through your surround channels, explosions and booms, an awesome music soundtrack coming through the surround channels and LFE. Lossless audio is fantastic!
Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, Indonesian/Bahasa, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai.
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” comes with the following special features:
- Technology as Art: Changing the Way We View Cinema – (5:26) A 4K Ultra HD exclusive. Ang Lee and crew discussing shooting the film in 120fps.
- Deleted Scenes – (1:18) Featuring six deleted scenes.
- Into Battle and Onto the Field: Stepping Inside Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – (9:19) Ang Lee discusses making a film that examines humanity. Interviews with the cast and also shooting the film at a high fps in 3D.
- Assembling a Cast – (11:26) Featuring interviews with the cast of the film and how each of them were cast for the film.
- Recreating the Half Time Show – (6:25) The process of recreating the half-time show and the many people involved to create the scene.
- The Brotherhood of Combat – (4:24) How the cast would have to go through boot camp training to prepare for their role for the film.
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” will come with a slipcover, both the 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray plus an UltraViolet Digital HD code.
Having watched “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” several times while reviewing the film in its different formats, while the film tends to narrow the focus on the protagonist Billy and less on the other soldiers of Bravo Squad in terms of their individual lives, the film focuses on the brotherhood of Bravo Squad.
As Billy is seen as the hometown hero, he is a man who doesn’t feel much of a hero as the person he was trying to save, Bravo Squad leader Shroom didn’t make it, part of the film is told in flashbacks of how Billy was a troublemaker of the squad, but eventually became a brother and respected Shroom who taught him a lot about life.
Billy joined the military as he had to make a choice of being incarcerated or joining the Army, because of damaging the vehicle of his sister’s ex-boyfriend, who dumped her after she got into a near-tragic car accident which damaged her face and has had to go through multiple facial reconstruction procedures.
Billy’s sister feels guilty of the sacrifice that Billy had to endure of going to war and seeing him suffer from PTSD and desperately wants him to file for honorable discharge. As Billy contemplates it, he and his brothers must go through a media campaign for a victory tour which culminates in their final appearance at the Dallas Cowboys halftime show.
But the film exposes the reality of war and what these men sacrificed and also how they are at home, suffering from PTSD and even loud noises makes them feel they are still in Iraq. And while they are home temporarily and being looked at as heroes, how the military and the government are using this squad and giving America a distorted perception of heroism.
Watching this film, it reminded me about the story of Jessica Lynch and how her convoy was ambushed by Iraqi forces during the Battle of Nasiriyah and how the government and media made her out as a hero, but then reports would come out years later, Lynch testifying that she never fired her weapon and the reality of what happened was revealed. She criticized media reports about putting her in the status of a heroine and she did not take credit for something that she didn’t do.
While “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is a fictional story, the story of Billy and his squad is reminiscent of Pentagon propaganda that took place during the early 2000’s. And in the film, Billy and the Bravo Squad are no doubt being used to further America’s involvement in the Iraq War.
While I enjoyed the film for watching Billy and the Bravo Squad crew reaching the end of their victory tour, the film does focus more on brotherhood, while the more emotional moments are focused on Kristen Stewart’s Kathryn who feels guilty about her brother and wants him to leave the military and come back home.
The other men of Bravo Squad are more background characters that would have been effective to show how each of the men were suffering, but while Billy does suffer from PTSD, only one character in the squad is focused on and showing the difficulty of adjusting away from the war zone. So, aside from Billy, for the other men in the film, character development was not really all there…and by watching the deleted scenes included on the Blu-ray, you start to realize that showcasing the squad a bit more, was left on the cutting room floor.
As for the 4K Ultra HD release, I was very impressed by the realness of the film and how it looked in 4K. Director Ang Lee wanted to keep things real and for the most part, he was able to accomplish that with the wonderful detail of the film. Again, impressive! But I can see if some people are turned off with the hyper-realism look of the film in 4K Ultra HD. But I enjoyed watching a film try something new and different technologically and giving audiences a chance to see if they enjoy watching a film that looks realistic. Some will enjoy it, others will hate it, but it is all subjective to the viewer.
Even the 3D Blu-ray version of the film, I also felt it was enjoyable to watch as the depth perception was amazing and how it really utilized depth for many parts of the film, was quite impressive. Especially during the half-time and firefight in Iraq.
And this release contains four versions of the film: 4K Ultra HD, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and UltraViolet Digital HD which is great!
Also, you get a good number of special features included (one that is exclusive on 4K Ultra HD and the others are featured on the Blu-ray disc).
Overall, Ang Lee’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” may have not won me over compared to his other films but I did enjoy the artistic freedom of using technology and the highest film FPS and trying something fresh and different compared to other films shot digitally.
Storywise, it may not be a heavy-hitting war film, but “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” does manage to capture brotherhood at arms, American war propaganda and the distorted perception of heroism. A film worth checking out!
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