Ang Lee’s next movie promises to be groundbreaking in the purest of ways. Fresh off his Best Director Oscar win for Life of Pi, the filmmaker was game to push technology boundaries even further for his next picture. He developed a boxing movie that would incorporate real footage from famous fighters like Muhammad Ali, but when that picture looked like it needed more work, he moved on to a satire about the Iraq War called Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk at Sony. However, just because he was tackling more dramatic, non-spectacle material didn’t mean he was abandoning his technical intrigue. Indeed, we learned at the time that Lee would be shooting the picture in “ultra high frame rate,” and new details for the picture reveal exactly what that means.
Per THR, Lee will preview footage from Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk on April 16th during his keynote address at NAB Show’s Future of Cinema Conference in Las Vegas, and the footage will be shown in its intended format: 4K, 3D, and at 120 frames-per-second. You read that right: Lee shot this satirical drama at a whopping 120 frames-per-second. For reference, almost every movie in existence is shot at 24 frames-per-second, with Peter Jackson infamously experimenting with going outside the norm by shooting The Hobbit movies at 48 frames-per-second. The result was not received well, with most agreeing that the footage looked like a soap opera as the sets appeared like, well sets given the clarity with which motion is captured at such a high frame rate.
Based on the book of the same name by Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk takes place in Texas and follows the surviving members of a squad of soldiers who embark on a media-intensive “Victory Tour” at Texas Stadium as they prepare to return to Iraq. Much of the story takes place during this one day, with flashbacks revealing what happened overseas. Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Garrett Hedlund, and Steve Martin round out Lee’s eclectic ensemble, and this is certainly one of the most anticipated films of the year not only because it’s Lee’s follow-up to Life of Pi, but also given the unique technical specifics of the production.
I am mighty curious to see how this footage is received next month. The human eye can only perceive so many frames per second, and while Jackson believed that HFR was the future of cinema, the negative response to An Unexpected Journey’s HFR rollout led to Warner Bros. all but burying the HFR exhibitions of the next two Hobbit films. James Cameron is planning on shooting in HFR for his Avatar sequels, but the animated nature of those films easily lends themselves to the clarity of HFR.
For Billy Lynn, however, Lee is truly attempting something wholly unique, especially given the thematic nature of the film. When his intention to shoot in “ultra HFR” was announced, he said he was aiming to “creative a different cinematic syntax in service of the story,” and I kind of can’t wait to see the results of this ambitious effort.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk opens in theaters on November 11th.