Hey folks, Joel here with a review for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse – it’s my pick of the week.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson and David Thewlis
Running time: 146 minutes
Age restriction: 13M V
Genre: Adventure, war, horses
Yet another feather in Steven Spielberg’s war genre cap – it’s no secret that the creator of Saving Private Ryan and Shindler’s List has a special onvsession with war movies, in fact the man arguably responsible for the blockbuster started his career making films depicting the battlefield on his home movie camera as a child. War Horse is set in World War 1, essentially separating it from his previous efforts but does it rock up the formula at all?
A wily thoroughbred is bought up by a struggling farmer. Seemingly untameable, the farmer’s son manages to befriend the beast and train him to work the land but tragedy ensues when his father sells the horse to the British cavalry. Now with his horse recruited into the army, young Albert makes it his mission to someday, somehow rejoin his four legged companion.
From the first scene we see the beautiful cinematography of Janusz Kaminski grace the screen – jaw dropping vistas of serene landscapes and battlefields charred by the toils of war. War Horse is a visual spectacle, rich and decadent to take in by the mouthfuls and never becomes stale. As usual, Spielberg caught this tale on celluloid and its warmth is visible when placed against the sterility of high definition technology, thankfully Spielberg has claimed that he’ll use film until the last lab closes. We’ve really been spoiled here, just as with his many other classics and the visual treatment is the one truly flawless aspect of War Horse
When I first saw the trailer I knew that War Horse was going to try and extract as many tears as possible, what I didn’t know is how hard Spielberg and co. would try. Standing at almost two and half hours long, War Horse is an emotional bombardment that rivals that of the German legions in the great war – it’s a frequent onslaught of attacks on the waterworks of the poor souls in the audience. For the soft hearted, tissues are indeed a prerequisite, for the intellectually superior this may be a little hard to swallow as Spielberg constantly employs the same sentimental tactics over and over again and just like a good drug, one builds tolerance quickly, wising up to his strategies. This is the make or break point for most as it does become annoying before the end.
Just to clarify, I am not the hard ass that some of you may think, in fact when I watched the first War Horse trailer my heart strings were pulled to breaking point…but when the human characters talked in the second trailer…well then War Horse turned into the cheese fest that I was hoping it wouldn’t be. Cheese is the only way to truly describe the human performances in War Horse – it’s two and half hours of cliched babble (and even worse when they’re talking to the horses). Thankfully the horses are the stars and are nothing short of astounding in their choreographed routines accompanied by yet another epic score from Spielberg faithful John Williams – his music provides the emotional power behind the majestic animals to great effect (even if the theme is repeated a bit too frequently).
If gushing waterfalls from your eyes is something you might consider a fun night out then go wild. In all honesty War Horse should only be avoided by the most cynical curmudgeons that can’t enjoy something for what it is.
The Bottom Line
War Horse embraces everything that Steven Spielberg is known for, the love for adventure, the heartache of loss and despair, the triumph of friendship, and the delights of his boyish infatuation for the battlefield. It’s also one of the cheesiest films I’ve ever seen – I mean that in the most positive way of course. It’s extremely watchable…it’s good cheese.