Over the weekend, at the New York Film Festival, Ang Lee premiered his Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, the movie based on Ben Fountain’s book of the same title. Ben got to attend the screening, and I was curious to hear what he thought. But before I share his thoughts with you, a couple things you should know: this is the first movie ever shot in 4K 3D at 120 frames per second (per eye), which delivers about 40 times the pixel data of a standard movie. It is hyper realistic. One expert compared the technological advance to the jump from silent pictures to talkies. I know all this because I profiled Sydney Durso for our November issue. She is the former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader who served as a consultant for the Atlanta portion of the film’s production. With that said, here’s what Ben thought:
It was intense. More intense than I expected, seeing this story that’s been in my head for so many years take form in such a vivid way as someone else’s vision. There are many great sequences where you can see what Ang is going for with the new technology, and it really works — the big set pieces like the halftime show, and the battle, and also some of the more intimate scenes, which come off with incredible power. Crack choking out the asshole frat boy toward the end of the game — that’s one of the most chilling scenes I’ve seen on film in a while. Our own Sydney pops out several times, though she never gets a speaking part.
I’m still sorting out my reaction to the thing. Critical reaction has been decidedly mixed. Best, most thoughtful review I saw was in the LA Times on Saturday. I talked a lot with John Toll, the cinematographer, after the movie, and got a better sense of just how hard it was, what Ang was trying to do. Like trying to fly a jet and a helicopter at the same time, in heavy fog. They were going on faith for most the filming; didn’t have a clear idea from one day to the next of what kind of result they were getting. Ang Lee is a brave man, and he’s going to take some hits on this, but where it clicks, it really really clicks.