Ang Lee’s Cinematic Revolution | Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)

Ang Lee’s Cinematic Revolution | Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)

-Balaji Thangapandian(Film Theorist)

‘It’s sort of weird being honored for the worst day of life.’ – Billy Lynn

The visionary filmmaker Ang Lee is back with the emotional war drama made using revolutionary technology. Plot revolves around a young war hero brought back to America on a war tour from Iraq for the thanksgiving day. Reportedly, such events are conducted to win general public’s support for the war and its associated spends.
Ang Lee

Ang Lee has shot the film in 120 fps (Frames Per Second), which provides crystal clear real eye viewing experience (The best camera in the world is human eye, cinema viewing experience is evolving towards it) whereas, the industry standard is mere 24 fps. Peter Jackson was sort of first to actually shoot in 48 fps for his film ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’, although the output was spectacular and glitter free, it was immediately denied for reasons unclear, and the so called ‘cinematic – revolution’ was halted.

James Cameron was the first filmmaker who expressed his support for shooting in high frame rates (HFR), ‘If watching a 3D movie is like looking through a window, then [with this] we’ve taken the glass out of the window and we’re staring at reality.’, said Cameron in 2011. It appears that Ang Lee has managed to utilise the HFR in a compelling way. The war footage sequence in Iraq of the film was screened at National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show, and the attendees appeared to be completely impressed.

Viewpoints of 120 fps/HFR by the participants of NAB show:

The Verge’s Bryan Bishop:
‘While still in its early stages, the footage screened certainly delivered on the promise of flicker-free, pristine 3D. As technologies like IMAX Laser have upped the ante on brightness used in theaters, 3D presentation has certainly improved dramatically in recent years. But Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk took things a striking step further. The image was impeccably bright, the frame rate resulting in utter clarity throughout the entire frame. It truly was more like looking through an impossibly-clean window than watching a screen, with the 3D producing no eye strain whatsoever. Given the lack of blur, it was possible to discern normally imperceptible details that simply wouldn’t be visible in other movies: from the way a shell casing pirouetted after being ejected from a machine gun, to the tiny puffs of dust in the distance when a bullet found its mark.’

‘Despite those extraordinary aspects of the image, however, the “soap opera effect” was still there. From the opening shot onward, the footage seemed like it could have been pulled from some fantastic and futuristic camcorder (or a television with motion smoothing cranked up), the change threatening to pull me out of the story even while the added detail was luring me in.’

The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Christopher Lawrence:
‘In a nutshell, the higher the frame rate, the closer an image looks to real life. During Saturday’s demonstration, the depth of field was staggering, almost as though the back of the screen had opened up. Actors often seemed to emerge from the screen, hologram style. Co-star Vin Diesel never looked more lifelike.’

The Hollywood Reporter’s Carolyn Giardina:
‘Although a few viewers complained that the results looked too much like video — the same complaint that greeted Peter Jackson’s Hobbitmovies when Jackson went beyond the Hollywood standard of 24 frames per second to present those movies at 48 fps — most of the reactions to Lee’s footage were overwhelmingly positive, with viewers tossing out words like “awesome” and “unbelievable.”

‘The clip cut back and forth between the war scenes, which used the high frame rates for a realistic, some would say hyper-real, way to put the viewer in chilling combat situations, showing the horror of war in the closeups of the soldiers. Scenes from the halftime show had a different look, with all the lights and the star-like flashes in the stadium. Lee is said to be varying the frame rates throughout the film for creative purposes. In the film, Destiny’s Child performs during the halftime show, though in the clip, only the backs of the performers’ heads were shown from a distance.’

I’m always curious about advancement in cinematic technologies. While the utilisation and initial acceptance of 120 fps/HFR is encouraging, exhibitors need to be persuaded so as to equip and project Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn in 3D, 4K at 120 fps in theatres, otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to view what Lee intended us to watch. The film opens on 8th/11th Nov’16 so that the release coincides with veteran’s day.

Official Trailer:

Three-time Academy Award® winner Ang Lee brings his extraordinary vision to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, based on the widely-acclaimed, bestselling novel. The film is told from the point of view of 19-year-old private Billy Lynn (newcomer Joe Alwyn) who, along with his fellow soldiers in Bravo Squad, becomes a hero after a harrowing Iraq battle and is brought home temporarily for a victory tour. Through flashbacks, culminating at the spectacular halftime show of the Thanksgiving Day football game, the film reveals what really happened to the squad – contrasting the realities of the war with America’s perceptions. The film also stars Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, with Vin Diesel, and Steve Martin. Lee used new technology, shooting at an ultra-high frame rate for the first time in film history, to create an immersive digital experience helping him dramatize war in a way never seen before. Lee directed and produced the film, from a screenplay by Jean-Christophe Castelli and based on the novel by Ben Fountain. Marc Platt, Rhodri Thomas, and Stephen Cornwell are also producers.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Ang Lee, Joe Alwyn, HFR, 120 FPS, Vin Diesel, Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, Steve Martin, Sony Pictures



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