Much of the anticipation surrounding Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk involves both the film’s 4K ultra-high resolution and 3D run at 120-frames-a-second. This experimental technique, created by the film’s director, Ang Lee, is designed to foster a greater level of cinematic artistic expression. And the speed – five times that of traditional movies – gives the film its unmistakable hyperrealistic look, penetrating during close-ups.
It’s as though the technology has revved up the ability to rip through the core of the characters’ souls, a good thing. But, given the subject matter of BLLHW, the visual experiment also asks, Just because we can now better zero in on the players’ plasma, do we find anything else signaling who they are? Especially when the powers that be have seemingly turned these characters’ flesh and blood into artifice designed to entertain the public. In other words, what’s real and what’s not?
The narrative, set in 2004 and based on the novel by Ben Fountain, involves a group of Bravo Squad soldiers serving in the Iraqi War. The team’s ostensible leader’s a no-nonsense sergeant (Garrett Hedlund), but most of the focus is on a heroic 19-year-old Army Specialist named Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn). To get the American public behind the war effort, the U.S. government has brought these men back to this country for a two-week victory tour, which concludes with their participation in the Thanksgiving Day, Dallas Cowboys’ halftime show.
This football stadium is the scene for the dissonance between reality and illusion, including the superficiality of the Cowboys’ owner (Steve Martin) and the well-meaning, low-rung agent (Chris Tucker) who’s trying to score a nice, cash movie deal for the lads. A religiously minded cheerleader (Makenzie Leigh), drawn to Billy, is a more authentic presence, as is Billy’s sister (Kristen Stewart) who unleashes her anger over his unwillingness to plead a case of PTSD to avoid being redeployed.
The halftime media circus culminates with a rousing sound-and-light spectacle involving battle-simulation fireworks, as the men stand on stage. Viewers may ask, Why did the men travel here to experience media’s version of the war, when they could get all that at, well, home. Which brings up another question: Where is home? Is it where the heart is? Or is it back on the battlefield where obligations and commitments can be executed honorably and one’s sense of self-respect can be maintained?
More than the Mars archetype of soldiering, BLLHW explores the Saturnine archetype of duty, rules and commitment, and seeing things as they really are. With this in mind, Lee’s 120-frames-a-second technique serves its purpose.
Archetype: Soldier. Reality. Authenticity. Self-respect. Commitment.
Astrology Archetype: ♄ (Saturn)