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David Poland

By David Poland

First Blush Review: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (spoiler-free)

It is too easy – lazy even – to dismiss Ang Lee’s latest out of hand. It is not your standard issue failure.

All the actors do well with what they are asked to do, especially Kristen Stewart (I’d have liked to have seen the movie about that character) and newcomer Joe Alwyn, who is really asked to carry the whole movie.

I can’t really blame the screenplay because it’s secondary to the visual event.

But the look eats the movie whole. And keep in mind that I have been completely open to digital filmmaking from the start.

Ang Lee said something before the film that turned out to be significant. He talked about the increased frame rate and how faces really tell stories… so (I extrapolated), this new format would let him leave more to faces.

In one scene, particularly, he changes styles to test this idea in a very tight close-up of Steve Martin’s head. And my interest was stirred.

But most of the movie feels like it was shot with the visual style we are used to from Mr. Lee, but with giant technical hurdles added.

Essentially, he made the absolute cutting edge version of a “Playhouse 90″ episode with some extra bells and whistles, and color.

There were some great Playhouse 90 episodes, made by some great directors. And I will return to Billy Lynn with no expectations of the new format and try to see it that simply.

Did it look beautiful in many ways? Yes. Big colors are stunning in this format. The film’s ingenue, Makenzie Leigh, wore a top with the center cut out and her breasts glued in to the premiere. Her faux Dallas Cowboy cheerlanders outfit, in this format, popped a million times harder with its vivid colors and show little, tease everything style.

Every time it felt like Lee was about to bust out a visual extravaganza… he just didn’t. Clearly a choice. Very Ang Lee. It it felt like a 2 hour tease.

I would be happy to see some serious directors try this format and find a unique language for it. Including Ang Lee. It’s like he was trying so hard to manage the new format that he wasn’t fully inspired to take advantage of the new format.

As for awards, except for tech awards, forget it. None of the supporting players have enough to do and the lead, however handsome, is at the start of a career, not at a pinnacle.

There’s no reason that someone couldn’t make a great film that feel like video/TV I. The future. But if the format is important to that greatness it will be be ause rhe filmmaker found a new language for film. Steven Spielberg didn’t find one. Peter Jackson didn’t find one. Ang Lee hasn’t found one.


One Response to “First Blush Review: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (spoiler-free)”

  1. Dr Wally Rises says:

    Thanks for the review. The early negative reactions to this movie have actually made more intrigued to see it in a way. There’s a particular strain of mainstream movie that I love, which is the glorious honourable failure. You know, those money losers that don’t quite work but have wonderful moments in them and you can sense the passion and effort that went into making it. Heaven’s Gate. 1941. Gangs of New York. Superman Returns. Tomorrowland. Sounds like we have a new member. And I loved the book.

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