Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Ultra HD Blu-ray review

Higher frame rate turns this unsatisfying drama into a technical triumph. Sort of...

With the likes of Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain and Life Of Pi on his CV, director Ang Lee must have looked like the safest pair of hands for this adaptation of Ben Fountain's acclaimed novel about an Iraq war hero struggling to adjust to life in the US media spotlight. Somehow, though, things have gone horribly wrong. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk isn't just a bad Ang Lee film; it's a bad film full stop. And some of the blame has to be laid at the door of Lee's insistence on filming it in a high frame rate.

The movie screened at 120fps at select theatres, and is presented at 60fps on Ultra HD Blu-ray. The result is that almost every sequence feels artificial and forced due to the extreme clarity. The tech ruthlessly exposes any acting flaws, makes sets look like sets rather than real locations, and seemingly greatly limits Lee's directorial options. Hmm.

Picture: The image quality on this UHD Blu-ray is almost too good. Levels of detail, texture and clarity go beyond anything you've seen before on a home cinema format. It's not just all those extra pixels that create the incredible clarity, either. The 60Hz presentation also plays its part, removing all traces of flickering, blur, judder and inter-frame detail loss.

The disc also makes aggressively good use of both HDR and wide colour, serving up an image that's dynamic, colour-rich but also subtle. Essentially the Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is the ultimate 4K HDR picture tech demo.

As pointed out earlier, though, the features that make the picture so good also help make actually watching the film a distracting experience. So problematic is the use of HFR here, in fact, that we'd recommend only using the 4K disc as a picture quality demo. To enjoy the film (slightly) more, watch the 24fps Blu-ray instead.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: The 4K Blu-ray's Dolby Atmos mix is almost as odd as its video. The extent to which the rear channels are used for introducing ambient effects is inexplicably random, and many of these ambient effects seem strangely canned and unnatural. The track is pretty muted for much of the time too, only really exploding into loud and bass-enriched life during the short and awkward Iraq war scenes.
Audio rating: 3.5/5

Extras: A so-so collection of six forgettable deleted scenes and five short Making of… featurettes – the best of which, Technology as Art: Changing the Language of Cinema, highlights the challenges of shooting in HFR.
Extras rating: 2.5/5

We say: This 4K 60fps experiment results in a great demo disc, but the film itself is a complete bust.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Sony Pictures, All-region UHD BD & All-region BD, £30