Hear every word, see every Action
Director Lee Ang aims to let you see exactly what soldiers experience on the battlefield in his latest film
Ever the groundbreaker, Lee Ang uses new technology to engage the audience in a novel cinematic experience in his latest film Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.
The film, which opens here tomorrow, is shot in a high frame rate of 120 frames per second, at 4K resolution and in 3D, an immersive way to make cinema that has never been done before.
The first film to be shot in high frame rate was Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 2012 and its subsequent sequels. The trilogy was shot at 48 frames per second.
Lee insists that the technology is only there to serve the story and heighten the drama, allowing the audience to experience the emotional, spiritual and physical journey of the character in a visceral way, as if through his eyes.
Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Ben Fountain, the movie is about a heroic young private in the US Army, Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn in his debut performance), brought home temporarily from the Iraq War along with his comrades from Bravo Squad for a victory tour. It culminates in a spectacular half-time show at the Thanksgiving Day football game.
The real story of what the soldiers went through in battle is told in flashbacks juxtaposed with the show. The drama also stars Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel and Steve Martin.
Lee's forte is telling complicated stories with an emotional charge, crossing cultural barriers with ease in the diverse range of his movies.
"I don't want to say this is a political movie or anti-war movie," said the two-time Oscar winner for direction for Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi.
The Taiwan-born film-maker simply wants movie-goers to "understand those soldiers a little bit more".
"We have to thank them for their service so we don't have to go and deal with the s*** that is out there."
Growing up in Taiwan, Lee was not really familiar with American football. "My son plays. What is good when you have money to make movies, you hire consultants who know football inside and out," he said, laughing.
Lee cast his own son Mason, 26, as a soldier, a character not in the book. "It's for selfish reasons. I got an okay from Ben Fountain and he said, why didn't I think of this myself? There are 5 per cent of Asian soldiers in the infantry.
"So that was one selfish reason and secondly, I wanted to send him to boot camp," he added.
The boot camp was gruelling and served to bond the actors. It consisted of two weeks of military training, with hundreds of push-ups, blowing bubbles in mud, crawling through broken glass and concrete, running plied with weighted backpacks, sleep deprivation and yes, punishment for failure.
HEROES: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk stars newcomer Joe Alwyn (far left) and Vin Diesel (left). PHOTO: SONY PICTURES
Alwyn, 25, was cast as the lead after an intensive search. "Joe is a top-notch talent, there is no doubt. Two minutes into the first reading, you just know it. And he has a compelling face. I wanted someone who looked like an all-American Texas boy. It's pretty pure in terms of look."
Lee particularly wanted to immerse the audience in the battlefield with the new technology.
"In the war movies of the past, you actually don't see expression, you see action. You see a ricochet with someone shooting, but you don't see their eyes. It's either blur or a strobe. (It's) even worse with the hand-held camera disorientating you, you don't know where you are.
"But here, I wanted to do the opposite. I wanted to use a very simple, static camera, and even though you describe chaos and franticness, I want everything clear.
"Every word you hear, every action, every nuance you see very clearly. I think that is what soldiers see and how they experience it. Clarity and frantic and it's driving you insane. I don't know how else to capture it."
Lee Ang has a knack for spotting fresh talent and launching them on the big screen.
Billy Lynn’s Long halftime Walk (2016)
Life of Pi (2012)
Lust, Caution (2007)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
The Ice Storm (1997)
Sense And Sensibility (1995)