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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Gulf War > Flashbacks > Mental Health > Propaganda > Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2016/TriStar/Sony 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray)

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2016/TriStar/Sony 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ 3D Picture: B+ Picture: B Sound: B+/B/B Extras: C+ Film: C+

Lately, the War Genre has been in decline after a big comeback in recent years, but now, the films are either in ideologically problematic rollback mode (Hacksaw Ridge), are war porn propaganda pieces (too long to list) or even gimmicky. I am no big fan of Ang Lee, but when I heard he would be trying out the latest HD technology for a new war film, I was intrigued even before I knew the cast or cinematographer. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2016) is the result, a very ambitious and expensive undertaking with a top cameraman, solid cast, money on the screen and yet, one that cannot get a clear cinematic vision together no matter how clear the sound and images.

Joe Alwyn is the title character, back from Gulf War service and not felling very well (he has PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder), yet is part of a celebratory event in the middle of a football game in Texas. The gaudy event is meant to celebrate victory, freedom and achievement, but all it can do is gloss over the truth and darker things, which we see in flashbacks throughout as this takes place in a 24-hour period. This set-up did not need to be contrived, but this is an Ang Lee film, so even the most sincere, ambitious efforts do not always add up and though it is the first time some of the technology has been pushed to the limit, there is serious competition in the genre and Lee, along with the writers and maybe some of the producers, seem to forget that. Because they might be able to make some visual shots more vivid (though nothing here sticks with one like Full Metal Jacket and its kill scenes or the large frame battles in 70mm war genre films like Battle Of The Bulge, Khartoum, Patton, Wayne's The Alamo or Lawrence Of Arabia) so epic potential is often missed.

There are also other technical flaws besides inconsistency, and make up is one of them. Without a Max Factor around, the makers seem not to know what to do with making the make-up work without it looking like make-up. It is the reason Spike Lee and Denzel Washington abandoned 70mm for Malcolm X because they knew the limits of the more vivid technology (65mm negative full color film format) would hold back Washington's ability to be the title character over so many years. It is things like this that they did not have the time (more so than the money) to figure out and just went with it in ways that should have been more thought out. And if the 120fps 4K HD is considered sharper and/or better than 70mm film (which I disagree on), all the more reason to take more time on things like make-up than becomes even more important.

What saves the film from being a disaster besides some of the better visual and aural moments are the cast, with Alwyn holding his own against Garrett Hedlund, Chris Tucker, Vin Diesel, Kristen Stuart, Vin Diesel, Tim Blake Nelson and great turn by Steve Martin that this is another poor Lee film where the good taste in casting saves his film from itself somewhat. I'll be curious to see what Alwyn does next, but he deserves a few more roles just the same. As for the film, 113 minutes was more than enough and now you can see for yourself, no matter the format you get to screen it in. The best ones are here.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced 60fps 1.85 X 1 Ultra High Definition image is a first for this or any format, delivering over twice as many frames as the world sound film standard of 24fps, which is the rate of the other two discs included. On the one hand, this has its impressive moments of depth, detail and clarity that make this easier to watch. However, like The Hobbit films (which were 48fps), you get one too many shots that look odd, reveal a certain video phoniness that will remind you of an old TV sitcom or variety show and that shows despite the best efforts of Lee and his great Director of Photography John Toll, A.S.C. (who actually shot this at 120fps!), Lee lost control of his mise-en-scene. Toll previously lensed The Last Samurai, Braveheart and The Thin Red Line, so his previous experience plus talent show he's as qualified as anyone for this project. I have to wonder if even 60fps was not enough.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 MVC-encoded 3-D - Full Resolution digital High Definition image has minor flaws, but the 3D does work and often well, yet it still lacks some of the impact of the 4K version and the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer can show some good moments visually, but is on the flat side, especially as compared to the other versions.

The 4K 2160p version is the only one with Dolby Atmos 11.1 lossless sound which is well mixed and presented, but the pinpoint accuracy (reminding me of Apocalypse Now) never feels totally integrated into the narrative that is there, so it does not stay with you as much as Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan, Thin Red Line, Black Hawk Down, Zero Dark Thirty and Full Metal Jacket. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the 3D and regular 1080p/2D Blu-rays is a less impressive mixdown, not much worse though.

Like the image, the sound does not meld well, so when the film compares the realities of post traumatic stress syndrome and had truths of war versus happy propaganda and the exploitation that can happen in the midst of all that, it lands up producing oddly empty and/or oddly vivid moments that lack warmth (a problem with most Lee films) and the result mirrors 'war porn' (shallow images that glorify war as if that is the way life should always be) versus totally being able to criticize them. I cannot say that Hacksaw Ridge was actually that much better as a film or in the way it as technically done, but this film cannot find where it wants to totally go or where it is and that is why audiences have had trouble connecting with it. Whether a wider 120fps reissue down the line will reveal more is a fair question, but if so, likely not enough to make ti a better film for me.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the 4K Blu-ray adds a few 2160p featurettes in Technology As Art: Changing The Language Of Cinema (about 5.5 minutes long), Stills in a Cast & Crew tab and a multi-part featurette called Moments in four segments (Billy, Making The Deal, Brotherhood and Family). The regular Blu-ray adds Deleted Scenes and a different four-part Behind The Scenes/Making Of section including Into Battle and Onto The Field: Stepping Inside Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Assembling A Cast, Recreating The Halftime Show and The Brotherhood Of Combat.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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