Review: War Horse (2012)

“Gentlemen, it is an honor to ride beside you. Make the Kaiser rue the day he crossed swords with us. Let every man do himself, his King, his country, and his fallen comrades proud. Be brave.”

War Horse is a family drama war film. It stars Jeremy Irvine (Life Bites), Emily Watson (Gosford Park), Peter Mullan (Tyrannosaur), David Thewlis (Harry Potter), Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Tom Hiddleston (Thor) and Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes). The film is directed by Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Saving Private Ryan and The Adventures of Tintin).

The film is based on the British novel of the same name by Michael Morpurgo and also the play adaptation.

Set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War, War Horse begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. When they are forcefully parted, the film follows the extraordinary journey of the horse as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets-British cavalry, German soldiers, and a French farmer and his granddaughter-before the story reaches its emotional climax in the heart of No Man’s Land. The First World War is experienced through the journey of this horse-an odyssey of joy and sorrow, passionate friendship and high adventure

War Horse is Steven Spielberg’s first live action film since Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Now we all know that wasn’t particularly good or even welcomed. Now it seems he’s got a second wind for making films. In December last year we saw Tintin – I didn’t think it was all that and found it average. With War Horse Spielberg is trying to get back to some of his roots with an epic family story that will just capture you away. But does it do this? My answer is no.

Lets start with the positives of the film. The visual landscapes and grandeur of it is stunning. The opening shot of the Devon countryside looks breathtaking and is filmed perfectly. In particular the scenes of the mud drenched World War 1 battlefield are some of the best moments in the film. Having said all this the astounding element of the film is the music score. John Williams compositions are truly legendary throughout his time in cinema and War Horse is no exception. It’s a truly wonderful, beautiful and emotional score. It could easily stand a lone as a piece of classical music.

Now the negatives. I can see what Spielberg is trying to achieve with the sentimental aspect of War Horse. It’s plain to see and it’s openly out there thrusted in your face. This is one of the reasons I didn’t like it, I don’t like to be emotionally blackmailed into feeling something for a character or situation. I didn’t cry but if I did they weren’t earned. I just didn’t get caught up in the schmaltzy and whimsical tone of the film.

I also found it structurally boring and too episodic. It’s as if the film could of been made for TV and then just cut together in the most linear format. You never get the time to know or care for the characters in any way and end up forgetting a lot of them. This only leaves Joey the Horse as its lead character. And I couldn’t get emotionally invested in a Horse despite its hardships because everything that happened was way too coincidental for me to believe.

There’s been lots of ridiculous talk that this is Spielberg’s finest hour. This is absurd beyond belief. I can understand why some would like it and be swept by it but it didn’t work on me. The only thing I got, when coming out from it was that I wished he made an epic World War 1 film. All I’ll say is nice try Spielberg however John Williams is the saviour of this bore horse.

2 Responses to “Review: War Horse (2012)”
  1. Slick Nick says:

    Agree. I think the beard’s direction lifted this above mediocrity though.

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