Spielberg’s World War I horse epic hits the small screen in high definition but how does this larger than life film translate to a home theatre experience – well simply put, seeing is believing.
I haven’t really changed my opinion of War Horse since the original review, it’s still the classic tale of a boy with his animal who must find each other after being separated. It’s still cheesy as hell but beautiful as heaven and undeniably schmaltzy but it does watch better the second time.
I remember being very excited for this when I watched the first trailer – it was filled with drama and emotion, communicated through music and the silent voice of the horse. The trailer moved me but sadly, the finished film did not, specifically due to the human element. The humans are frustrating to watch due to their imbecilic behavior, I’m aware that they’re talking to a horse but a horse is not a dog, so they really have no reason to be all cutesy with it.
Where War Horse excels is in it’s artistic design – the locations, clothing, and special effects are jaw-droppingly gorgeous and literally a visual feast. It’s an ambitious film that does the war part better than the horse part with gritty, emotional action sequences on the same high level as Saving Private Ryan. Complimenting the visual treatment is the aural excitement that is the sound design, a well put together master that is pitch perfect with the production although the John Williams score might not be one of his more recognisable works.
Without any bias, War Horse is in my opinion, the perfect Blu-ray experience with a crystal clear 1080p transfer and possibly one of the most immersive DTS surround sound mixes I’ve ever encountered in my home theatre.
As you would expect from Disney, we’re treated to a stunning HD treatment filled with amazing colour vibrancy and inky blacks that look great on a Full HD screen – the range is just overwhelmning and is possibly the one title that I’ve seen at home that rivals the experience of the big screen. In addition to the rich greens and browns of the film, we’re also treated to a heavy dose of texture – manes and horse hide have tangable details as do the skin and clothing but are thankfully subdued somewhat by light noise caused by the film medium.
The audio is nothing short of a masterpiece of sound engineering. The sound environment is used with great variety with a large focus on directional effects. There’s this one scene in particular that comes to mind – Joey is running across a battlefield where the opposing British and German forces are exchanging gunfire, throughout the scene bullets fly past the screen accompanied by audio effects that match up in a three dimensional space. But it’s not just the bullets that make the scene, it’s chockablock with a multitude of sounds – voice track, explosions, the clattering of a galloping horse, hollering wounded souls, and the booming music track…it all comes together in an organic, mind-blowingly satisfying package.
Typical of Disney, this release doesn’t have much in the name of special content. Just two featurettes – a cast and crew round table (about 20 minutes), and an interview with an extra (3 minutes). That’s it, no audio commentary, no making of series, it’s the bare minimum which is disappointing as the visual scope of War Horse is just epic and filled with design that just begs to be discussed
The Bottom Line
My original rating for War Horse’s theatrical release was significantly lower but story aside, this Blu-ray has phenominal production values. It may not have much in the name of bonus features and the story itself may not be one of Spielberg’s most memorable but the visuals and sound design is off the charts and and fantastic showcase for home-entertainment…in fact I would caution to say that the Blu-ray provides a better experience than the cinema in this instance!
Overall score (not an average)