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‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’ Critical Roundup: Reviews Slam Ang Lee’s Innovative Technology

Lee's enthusiasm for new visuals can't silence disdain for "hyperreal images out of whack with the routine events that dominate the screen."

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” entered fall with serious Oscar buzz. But after the curtain was lifted at last night’s NYFF world premiere, director Ang Lee’s excitement for the new technology that brought his story to the screen — with a presentation in 3D, 4k resolution and 120 frames-per-second — appears to have been his undoing. Indiewire’s Eric Kohn gave the film a B-, noting that it’s “just a decent story laced with attempts to make it larger than life.” Reviews across the board greeted the movie with something of a shrug, and critics had many problems with the technology. Some notable industry takes:

The Guardian‘s Benjamin Lee

It’s a strange test subject for this technology and Lee’s two-hour argument that this will be how all films should be viewed in the future is a failed one.

Uproxx‘s Mike Ryan

I never felt like I was watching a movie. The more realistic everything looked, the faker everything became. I’m glad Ang Lee tried, but I hope he decides against this in the future. He’s too important of a filmmaker for him to get too caught up in this technology that diminishes his work.

Variety‘s Brent Lang

There’s another, thornier problem. Because the higher frame rate and 3D allows for a greater depth of vision, it’s clear that the extras at scenes in the football stadium are miming actions and having fake conversations.

TheWrap‘s Dan Callahan

In most of the scenes in “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” a figure will stand in the foreground of the frame and the background will be out of focus, and the foregrounded figure is so super-clear that they look like a cut-out with scissors from a glossy magazine. There have been some outstanding examples in recent years of what can be accomplished with immersive 3D imagery, but the extra-clarity 3D in this Lee movie often looks weirdly like something shot on videotape in the 1980s.

Collider‘s Brian Formo

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is problematic beyond the fact that the visuals look both crisp and fake; the story itself is too telegraphed, on the nose and rushed.

The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Rooney:

“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” [is] an absorbing character study, even if it’s ultimately not one that justifies its much-vaunted technological advances.

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