Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
I remember when the first trailer debuted for BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK and critics were getting excited that it might be the year’s first Oscar frontrunner. It had all the right ingredients; an Oscar winning director, a few big name cast members and an adaptation from a best selling novel. But as the credits rolled on Ang Lee’s latest film, I couldn’t stop asking myself what went so horribly wrong. This is about as bad a misfire as you’ll see from an A-list director.
The film follows Billy Lynn and his Bravo Company, who achieved national notoriety when a video went viral of Billy fighting off some insurgents in Iraq while trying to save Sgt. Shroom (Vin Diesel). The Army decided to send them on a propaganda tour, culminating with a halftime display during a Thanksgiving football game (think Dallas Cowboys without the NFL rights). As we follow Billy and his fellow soldiers in the stadium, we get flashbacks of Billy in Iraq and in the states as he comes to terms with his newfound hero status.
There’s a good movie here. I’m not sure where, but the idea of a young soldier coming home to a hero’s welcome after suffering horrific events is something that could and should be told well. But Ang Lee turns a great, basic story into a poor effort as he bogs the film down with a glossed over story about Billy’s sister Kathryn (Kristen Stewart), an ongoing fight with the stadium’s security team and an attempted swindling by the team’s owner (Steve Martin). All of these poorly developed subplots take away from the basic story of a soldier grappling with his situation and the choices that got him there. But nothing was worse than the romance between Billy and the cheerleader Faison (Mackenzie Leigh). This was laughable to the point of being embarrassing for everyone involved.
I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Ang Lee because he set everyone up for failure. Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund and Steve Martin are all very talented and capable actors, but here they look like amateur performers at an off Broadway play. And you know there’s something wrong with your film when the only halfway decent performance was from Vin Diesel. But nobody is going to suffer more from Lee’s terrible directing than newcomer Joe Alwyn, who lacked the charm and charisma needed to carry a movie like this. I don’t know if it was him or Lee, but I can’t imagine Alwyn getting another chance like this again.
In general, I get nervous whenever a movie sells its gimmick more than its story and that might be the case with BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK, which was shot at 120 frames per second. But my question is; why? Why use that technology on a film like this, which features a lot of scenes with people sitting around talking? The “hyper real” film quality would probably be great with a movie featuring better settings, but it felt like a waste here. The big halftime performance with fireworks and dancing lasted about 10 minutes and was hardly a decent justification for the technology.
BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK was utterly disappointing and although it was beautiful to look at, it offered very little substance. The frustrating thing about this missed opportunity is that there was probably a good film that could have been adapted from the original novel, but this wasn’t it.
3D BLU-RAY REVIEW
Thanks to the high frame rate, the 3D version of the film looks pretty great. The scene that will grab your attention is the Asprin bottle flying into Billy’s hands towards the end. Apart from that, there aren’t really any “gimmick” 3D scenes, but the beauty of the 3D is in the depth. However, as nice as the 3D is, you won’t care once you watch the 4K…
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: Perhaps the most frustrating thing about BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK is that it might have the most stunning 4K UHD presentation I’ve ever seen. We’ve reviewed close to 90 4K discs and if I had to pick one to use as reference to show off the clarity and color definition of the new format, this is the one I’d choose…and it’s a terrible movie. But if you were waiting for an example of how great the format can be, this is a title to check out. Details are stunning across the board, in every scene. I’d would also say that in the closeup shots, which were uncomfortable anyway, the level of detail makes it look like the actors are in the room with you. I was taken aback by the closeup on Steve Martin because although I love him as a comedian, I wasn’t expecting him to be standing in my living room. It’s like that in almost every scene, where the details and colors are so rich and vibrant that you feel like you could reach out and touch the screen. For enthusiasts, this is a must own.
Audio: The Dolby Atmos track is equally impressive.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
The 4K UHD actually contains one exclusive feature;
Technology As Art: Changing the Language of Cinema (5:25): This is just Ang Lee and Tim Squyres (the editor) talking about the technology used in the film. It’s too short of a feature to be important, but I like that it’s included on the 4K version.