Why Ang Lee chose 'Billy Lynn' to showcase new movie technology

By Jill Serjeant
Reuters

By Jill Serjeant

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It's usually comic book or adventure movies that get advanced technology treatment but when Oscar-winning director Ang Lee was looking to showcase groundbreaking extra-fast, high-resolution imagery, he chose a drama about American soldiers returning home from Iraq.

"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," based on the satirical 2012 novel by Ben Fountain, is shot in 3D, 4K resolution and 120 frames per second - five times faster than an ordinary movie. The aim was to immerse the audience in the experience of the film's conflicted 19-year-old protagonist.

The movie follows young soldier Billy Lynn, portrayed by newcomer Joe Alwyn, who returns from Iraq with his squad in 2004 for a victory tour of the United States after being hailed as heroes.

The soldiers take part in the surreal spectacle of a Thanksgiving football halftime show on the eve of their return to war.

Lee said the high-definition technology aimed to underline the contrast between the soldiers' sensation of being on the battlefield and the noisy patriotism of their reception back in the United States.

"I think it makes it easy to see things through his (Billy's) eyes," Lee said. "One of the hardest things was translating from the book to the film. It's very internal. One day the boy is experiencing bullets and the next the halftime show and the still fresh memory of battle."

The movie opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday - Veterans' Day in the United States - in a tribute to the military.

It comes a decade after a slew of films about the Iraq war that largely failed at the U.S. box-office a decade ago. Yet Lee said he hoped his movie will give audiences "a little more understanding of what soldiers experience. They are the people who do things we don't want to do."

Only a handful of U.S. movie theaters are equipped to handle the new technology, meaning most Americans will see the film in regular format or 3D when the opening expands on Nov. 18.

The movie also has Kristen Stewart as Billy's cynical sister, Steve Martin as a football team owner and Vin Diesel as Billy's military mentor.

Stewart said Lee wanted "to get closer to the honesty in the situation."

"Usually technically advanced movie are a little more fake - they are about superheroes or about things that don't exist, and this is the absolute opposite of that," she said.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant)