- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2017

A war drama more remembered for its technological advances than excellence in storytelling shines brightly under the ultra high-definition spotlight in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated R, 110 minutes, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, $45.99).

Director Ang Lee and cinematographer John Toll delivered a jarring visual delight to audiences last year through a film shot at 120 frames per second in 3-D at 4K resolution (a first in the industry and five times the standard film speed). The result offered unprecedented clarity and a too life-like visual perspective.

The story follows conflicted soldier Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) and his unit “Bravo” temporarily returning home from the Iraq War to celebrate “the worst day of his life” after a grueling rescue mission led by the well-respected Sgt. Virgil “Shroom” Breem (Vin Diesel) did not go as planned.

With the team set to appear at an extravagant NFL halftime show on Thanksgiving, Billy flashes back to what really got his fellow soldiers into such an odd tribute.

Screenwriter Jean-Christophe Castelli’s stilted effort (based on the book by Ben Fountain) never emotionally resonates due to too many soap-operatic-style acting moments and unconvincing dialogue tied to America’s love of heroism but not always the real soldiers behind it.

Although Mr. Alwyn and Kristen Stewart as his sister Kathryn shines, the mighty Steve Martin as Dallas football owner Norm Oglesby and Chris Tucker as PR shill Albert never look uncomfortable with their monologues.

4K UHD in action: The vivid, crisp and magnified detail of this digital transfer, culled from the 4K original source material and presented at 60 frames per second (a first for the format), offers an excellent reason to jump aboard the ultra high-definition bandwagon.

It’s odd to watch a film that looks so real. It’s like a live television show with supercharged resolution.

Specifically, viewers will stare at the grains of sand on the ground, admire the sheen off of a barbequed sausage at a buffet table, count the stitching on a beret’s patch but, most important for an actor’s performance, notice the glistening of eyes before a character gets emotional.

A scene with Sgt. Shroom and Billy under a Bodhi tree in Iraq is a perfect example of the upgrades and worthy of study for its depth of clarity and pure serene beauty of the moments.

However, I offer a caveat. The movie’s limited action scenes and story mired in melodrama do not warrant the technology upgrade.

The dynamic visuals would have been much more appreciated in a fantasy film genre such as the “Star Wars,” “Marvel’s Avengers” or “Lord of the Rings” franchises.

Best extras: Contained on the 4K UHD disc is a 6-minute explanation from Mr. Lee and editor Tim Squyres on the challenges of shooting and editing a film in 3-D at 120 frames per second and its impact on the human eye.

The Blu-ray disc includes the other roughly 30 minutes worth of featurettes. None of the group are really that outstanding and spend time focusing on the production, half-time show and actors training in boot camp. Throughout the four segments, cast and staff congratulate one another on their extraordinary effort, but it’s a bit too promotional for my tastes.

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