Saturday, December 31, 2011

War Horse (2011)

"War Horse" is the second of two Steven Spielberg movies to have been released this year, and it's interesting because the man hasn't released two films in a year since 2005 with "Munich" and "War of the Worlds." If you saw my review of "The Adventures of Tintin," you realized that the film had his action-adventure style written all over it. "War Horse," however, displays Spielberg's grand scale style which usually pulls your heart strings that he has demonstrated in films such as "E.T." and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." And let me tell all of you that "War Horse" is yet another gem in the glorious filmography of Spielberg.

Adapted from the children's book of the same name, in addition to it being adapted into an award-winning Broadway play, the central focus of the film is on a horse named Joey, who is raised by a teenage farm boy (Jeremy Irvine) in the English valley after his father (Peter Mullan). However the dawning of WWI leads to Joey being sold to the British Army, and the horse embarks on an epic journey across a period of four years,as he touches the lives of soldiers on both sides of the war, and also bringing together a more heartwarming relationship between a young girl and her grandfather (Niels Arestrup).

Spielberg and his filmmaking crew used fourteen horses to play the role of Joey, and they all bring a mix of impeccable training and heartwarming appearances to the table. It's been quite a year for "animal acting" during this year for film, but all of the horses manage to nail down the physical emotions in the most authentic way possible.

The human acting in this film is good overall, even though the film does switch in between stories several times in the 146 minute running time. Jeremy Irvine holds his own to a considerable degree as Albert, as he never goes too over-the-top in the "heart string pulling" scenes his character endures. Tom Hiddleston,though in a minor role as a British Army officer, manages to deliver a reserved performance of compassion and grace much like Spielberg's handling of the film.

As far as technicality categories go for this year in film, nothing except for "The Tree of Life" gets much better than this. Janusz Kaminski's cinematography is beyond breathtaking as he and Spielberg create shots of immense scale and great attention to detail. The set pieces, especially for the WWI sequences are established in fantastic detail, whether its the variety of colors in the setting, or wide camera angles which expand the film's scope to a greater degree.

With this film, John Williams continues to show why he's the master in creating some of the most emotionally moving scores in cinema history. With scenes that already deliver on the heartwarming family movie scale, Williams takes them further with his soothing and inspiring opuses. Williams may be 80 years old, but he has continued to show decade by decade since the late 1970s on why he's one of the most masterful composers in Hollywood.

Steven Spielberg directs this film with his classic scope for breathtaking set pieces and sharp attention to detail. Even though many of the scenes attempt to emotionally move you, Spielberg succeeds with them unlike most contemporary filmmakers would, because of his long background working with these themes in the past. In addition, Spielberg makes the WWI battle scenes very intense with the tight camera angles, especially during the scenes depicting trench warfare.

While this may stand as another Spielberg gem, it's not a perfect film, though. For example, there's one short story involving two German brothers and the horse that didn't have an emotional or interesting enough impact compared to the rest of the vignettes the horse goes encounters. Additionally, the fact that this film is based on a children's book ends up highlighting numerous instances of lazily written dialogue between characters.

Despite a few minor nit pickets, "War Horse" highlights the magic of director Steven Spielberg's epic scope, in addition to showcasing the illustrious talent of his longtime technicality collaborators. This film is bound to a be an Oscar contender, but the film's huge amount of "heart string pulling" scenes will divide the overall response. However if you're a devoted fan of Spielberg's movies, there's little doubt that you'll be disappointed.

Final Grade: A-


  1. Superb review. I'm a fan of Spielberg, pretenious film snobs think they are above him. I'm quite interested in this.

  2. Good review. I plan to see it tomorrow along with Tintin. I'm not very confident about it but all the same, I hope I enjoy it as much as you do.

  3. First of all, great review. Your observations are keen and you demonstrate great understanding of both the director and film.

    One thing. In your final sentence, you say; . "However if you're a devoted fan of Spielberg's movies, there's little doubt that you'll be disappointed."

    I think you meant, "However if you're a devoted fan of Spielberg's movies, I doubt you'll be disappointed."

    The way you have it, it says you're certain viewers WILL be disappointed.