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Virtues of 'Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk' are concealed by film format

'Billy' stars Joe Alwyn as an Iraq War Army specialist whose heroism makes him a grudging candidate for celebrity back home. The film is directed by Ang Lee.

Mary Cybulski/Sony-TriStar Pictures/AP
Joe Alwyn appears in a scene from 'Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.'

Much has been made of the fact that Ang Lee’s uneven new movie, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” – about a 19-year-old Iraq War Army specialist (Joe Alwyn) whose heroism makes him a grudging candidate for celebrity back home – was shot in a “revolutionary” new format: a combination of 4K resolution and 3-D at 120 frames per second, five times the standard speed. In practical terms, what this means is that most audiences will end up seeing the plain old alternate 2-D version, since most movie theaters are not equipped to show the super-duper format. 

I saw it in an ultra-3-D version that, far from seeming revolutionary, made me think I was watching the film on one of those awful big-screen high-definition TVs with hyperclarity so sharp and glossy as to seem unreal. I suspect that whatever virtues the film possesses – and it does, in flashes, convey the uneasy confluence of jingoism and authentic patriotism – will come through more clearly in 2-D, without all the hype. This is a technological breakthrough, all right, but a breakthrough to what? Grade: B- (Rated R for language throughout, some war violence, sexual content, and brief drug use.)

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