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540 of 567 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A miraculous kind of an horse...
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. After seeing it at the theater I came onto Amazon, as I often do, to add it to my wishlist. I then read the unexcited reviews that were found on the product page and thought I should write a review to posit a counter opinion. The other reviews posted didn't seem to have enjoyed the film, two major criticisms being that they found it...
Published on February 19, 2012 by Reconnecting To My Childhood

versus
95 of 113 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More enjoyable for "war movie" buffs than "horse movie" fans
War Horse is by no means a bad movie. It was well acted, well scripted, and in many ways a deeply moving film. But if you are a horse lover (as I am) it will likely be difficult for you to watch.

The movie follows a beautiful Thoroughbred named Joey through various phases of his life. Unfortunately, the horse has a very difficult life, changing owners numerous...
Published on March 8, 2012 by rstack


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540 of 567 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A miraculous kind of an horse..., February 19, 2012
This review is from: War Horse (Four Disc Combo: Blu-ray/DVD + Digital Copy) (Blu-ray)
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. After seeing it at the theater I came onto Amazon, as I often do, to add it to my wishlist. I then read the unexcited reviews that were found on the product page and thought I should write a review to posit a counter opinion. The other reviews posted didn't seem to have enjoyed the film, two major criticisms being that they found it melodramatic and heavy handed, comments like these make me wonder if audiences have become so cynical that they view any attempt at displaying open/honest emotion to be an attempt at manipulation. Everyone has differing opinions but I feel this film will appeal to anyone who enjoys stylistically well made films and/or anyone who enjoys stories about bonds/will being tested. In a general sense Spielberg uses the story of this horse to explore the human condition and explore some very well done set pieces/environments.

As I saw it, the horse is a metaphor for hope and how it can be shared and spread, how it can inspire and endure. I don't mean this in an over sentimental way but just in a very real way. We are all hopeful for different things, big and small, and this film is about how under the right conditions and with the right persistence that hope can avoid being snuffed out or lost.

The film, based on a play I have not seen and cannot compare it to, is episodic as the horse goes from owner to owner during the years of World War 1. The fact that the film was episodic didn't make it feel chopped up or give it the feel of a broken narrative. I felt the through line of the film was the human condition and the traveling horse facilitated the telling of several viewpoints while exploring the excellent recreation of a time period. The acting was top notch by everyone seen on screen. To counter another criticism, the main human character, a boy named Albert, does show strong affection for the horse, a character in the film quips "come on now boy, it's not as if he were a dog". I didn't find this relationship to be strange, the horse simply becomes very important to Albert because as we see he doesn't have much to his life and the horse is something he gets that then works to make his life better. Perhaps I also never found it strange as I always found the horse to be representative of hope rather than as just some random animal.

The writing in terms of dialogue flowed and felt incredibly natural, as it does in most Spielberg films. John Williams score, while clearly a John Williams score, is the perfect mix of innocence, action/adventure and drama as the story calls for it. I would strongly compare the pacing and acting to Catch Me if You Can, as that film also had several major settings that shifted as the film progressed. I found War Horse to actually be better paced as it has a few more settings (about 5, possibly 6 in total?) and each one is shorter than the ones in the aforementioned film. Best of all the film actually ends when it ends, the story concludes and there are no tacked on or forced endings for the sake of pandering or over explaining as many recent films have had.

As far as the directing, I don't know if one can compare anything to the seeming effortless magic he created in his early films or certain efforts from the 90's but this would be Spielberg above his recent best and closer to those older films in quality. Everything unfolds visually in such an easy to follow an familiar way while still being unique and involving. There are some masterful shots that recall the opening of Saving Private Ryan but in an artistically different way. This is unquestionably due in part to the fact that this film has been made family friendly, while that could serve as a criticism I didn't find the film to be aimed specifically at families, though it has been made to facilitate viewing by younger children. Rather than illustrating the pure violence of battle as he did in SPR, Spielberg spends his time in this film showing the brutality of war in a creative fashion that suggests the horror more than displaying it. There is one such scene in particular where mounted soldiers ride into battle and on the other end of the shot their empty horses emerge without many of the riders they once carried.

In a sea of films about special effects, high concept stories or big names here is a film that is a complete film on its own without any gimmicks, as fun as gimmicks can be (Mi4 for example). This film is an actual experience for those who are open to it. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an excellently crafted film that pushed the dark and grittiness, War Horse is a excellently crafted film that pushes the lighter elements but both are equally enjoyable and excellently made. Watching a good Spielberg film is like watching the epitome of what film is. It's like more recently watching Christopher Nolan's films, there are always flaws in any film but films such as theirs are so carefully and purposefully made as films that they are engaging and fully engrossing.

One potential weakness I will admit, though I feel a reviewing of the film would diminish it, is that the film doesn't have as strong an arc as most films. The characters change but so much of it is internal here. The horse's first owner does change but he is absent through the middle of the film, the various other owners also change in varying ways but all during their own vignettes. The horse itself has changed in much the same way as his owner as suggested by the final shot of the film, but perhaps critical audience members won't pick up on this. That said, one could (and I would say should) view this subtlety as purposeful. The film isn't as much about how the boy or the horse has changed but how despite all they've been through they managed to stay so much the same, they maintain what could easily have been lost.

I dunno, I personally love it (5 Stars) but for objectivity I'll give it 4/5 for general audiences, I think most everyone I described at the beginning of this review will like this film if they view it. For those who feel it is heavy handed and melodramatic go and watch Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, its also an excellent film but there is no overt display of emotion to be found there. Thanks for your time
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79 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A miraculous kind of an horse..., December 26, 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. After seeing it at the theater today I came onto Amazon, as I often do, to add it to my wishlist. I then read the unexcited reviews currently found on the page and thought I should write a review to posit a counter opinion. The other reviews currently posted don't seem to have enjoyed the film, two major criticisms being that they found it melodramatic and heavy handed, comments like these make me wonder if audiences have become so cynical that they view any attempt at displaying open/honest emotion to be an attempt at manipulation. Everyone has differing opinions but I feel this film will appeal to anyone who enjoys stylistically well made films and/or anyone who enjoys stories about bonds/will being tested. In a general sense Spielberg uses the story of this horse to explore the human condition and explore some very well done set pieces/environments.

As I saw it, the horse is a metaphor for hope and how it can be shared and spread, how it can inspire and endure. I don't mean this in an oversentimental way but just in a very real way. We are all hopeful for different things, big and small, and this film is about how under the right conditions and with the right persistence that hope can avoid being snuffed out or lost.

The film, based on a play I have not seen and cannot compare it to, is episodic as the horse goes from owner to owner during the years of World War 1. The fact that the film was episodic didn't make it feel chopped up or give it the feel of a broken narrative. I felt the throughline of the film was the human condition and the travelling horse facilitated the telling of several viewpoints while exploring the excellent recreation of a time period. The acting was top notch by everyone seen on screen. To counter another criticism, the main human character, a boy named Albert, does show strong affection for the horse, a character in the film quips "come on now boy, it's not as if he were a dog". I didn't find this relationship to be strange, the horse simply becomes very important to Albert because as we see he doesn't have much to his life and the horse is something he gets that then works to make his life better. Perhaps I also never found it strange as I always found the horse to be representative of hope rather than as just some random animal.

The writing in terms of dialogue flowed and felt incredibly natural, as it does in most Spielberg films. John Williams score, while clearly a John Williams score, is the perfect mix of innocence, action/adventure and drama as the story calls for it. I would strongly compare the pacing and acting to Catch Me if You Can, as that film also had several major settings that shifted as the film progressed. I found War Horse to actually be better paced as it has a few more settings (about 5, possibly 6 in total?) and each one is shorter than the ones in the aforementioned film. Best of all the film actually ends when it ends, the story concludes and there are no tacked on or forced endings for the sake of pandering or overexplaining as many recent films have had.

As far as the directing, I don't know if one can compare anything to the seeming effortless magic he created in his early films or certain efforts from the 90's but this would be Spielberg above his recent best and closer to those older films in quality. Everything unfolds visually in such an easy to follow an familiar way while still being unique and involving. There are some masterful shots that recall the opening of Saving Private Ryan but in an artistically different way. This is unquestionably due in part to the fact that this film has been made family friendly, while that could serve as a criticism I didn't find the film to be aimed specifically at families, though it has been made to fascilitate viewing by younger children. Rather than illustrating the pure violence of battle as he did in SPR, Spielberg spends his time in this film showing the brutality of war in a creative fashion that suggests the horror more than displaying it. There is one such scene in particular where mounted soldiers ride into battle and on the other end of the shot their empty horses emerge without many of the riders they once carried.

In a sea of films about special effects, high concept stories or big names here is a film that is a complete film on its own without any gimmicks, as fun as gimmicks can be (Mi4 for example). This film is an actual experience for those who are open to it. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an excellently crafted film that pushed the dark and grittiness, War Horse is a excellently crafted film that pushes the lighter elements but both are equally enjoyable and excellently made. Watching a good Spielberg film is like watching the epitome of what film is. It's like more recently watching Christopher Nolan's films, there are always flaws in any film but films such as theirs are so carefully and purposefully made as films that they are engaging and fully engrossing.

One potential weakness I will admit, though I feel a reviewing of the film would diminish it, is that the film doesn't have as strong an arc as most films. The characters change but so much of it is internal here. The horse's first owner does change but he is absent through the middle of the film, the various other owners also change in varying ways but all during their own vignettes. The horse itself has changed in much the same way as his owner as suggested by the final shot of the film, but perhaps critical audience members won't pick up on this. That said, one could (and I would say should) view this subtlety as purposeful. The film isn't as much about how the boy or the horse has changed but how despite all they've been through they managed to stay so much the same, they maintain what could easily have been lost.

I dunno, I personally love it (5 Stars) but for objectivity I'll give it 4/5 for general audiences, I think most everyone I described at the beginning of this review will like this film if they view it. For those who feel it is heavy handed and melodramatic go and watch Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, its also an excellent film but there is no overt display of emotion to be found there. Thanks for your time
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118 of 129 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Nobility of WAR HORSE, February 24, 2012
By 
This review is from: War Horse (DVD)
The courage of a horse and its bond with a young man amid the horrors of war serves as the backdrop to a saga of loyalty and survival in Warhorse, Steven Spielberg's take on World War I and its effect on a British family. Adapted from a novel and inspired by the stage play of the same name, this is old fashioned filmmaking that could have easily been made 50 years ago back when epic war dramas like Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago ruled the screens.

A teenage boy, Albert (Jeremy Irvine), and a colt, Joey, form a bond amid the English countryside. Albert's mother (Emily Watson) worries over the house being repossessed as his father (Peter Mullan), an alcoholic and war veteran, struggles to harvest crops from the harsh land. Threatened with eviction, Joey is sold to the army to assist in the fighting in Europe during World War I. Heartbroken, Albert vows to find Joey and be reunited. We can see early on that Joey is a special horse who is smart and brave whether he submits to being a plow horse, outracing a motor car, or lugging German war machines up a mountain. As the years pass from 1914-1918 and the war amasses its destructive toll on men and animals on both sides, Joey's ownership changes hands, but through it all, he finds a succession of kind souls to watch over him. When Albert joins the battle, an unlikely series of events will bring him closer to Joey.

Joey is an allegory to slavery as he is being sold as a commodity to hard labor and taken as property by either side in the war. The story is primarily told through his eyes, and each set of people Joey encounters has a personal story: the British officer who makes a promise to bring Joey back to his rightful owner, a young German soldier who dotes protectively over his brother, or a German farm girl who is cared for by her grandfather. In wartime, making friends and losing them is a way of life, and Joey is no different whether it is a human or fellow mare. Some common themes emerge from all these people, namely their affection for Joey and the toll that war exacts on loved ones.

Production values are superior especially the vivid cinematography by Janusz Kaminski who employs color schemes especially at the end that emulate the palettes of Gone with the Wind. Irvine is ideally cast as the son who refuses to give up on his horse and friend.

There are not a lot of the trademark Spielberg moments that you expect; Clint Eastwood could have been the director without much difference. There are memorable scenes that resonate including a tragic charge by British cavalry on a German position and an auction with an army `band of brothers' pitching in for a worthy cause. Then there is the harrowing, desperate escape by Joey that culminates in him getting tangled in barbed wire in No Man's Land and help coming from an unlikely source which results in a most unusual standoff. Such scenes may seem clichéd but register nonetheless.

The ending does have an emotional payoff, but there are some missed opportunities along the way. There are relationships that could have been developed more like Albert's father who is a one dimensional character but has suffered trauma from a previous war. The possibility of romance for Albert during a race between Joey and a car carrying a pretty girl never develops. Spielberg also meant this as an antiwar film as in the scenes of brutal trench warfare where Albert witnesses his own comrades die, but such scenes are relatively brief and do not linger like his World War II saga, Saving Private Ryan.

Warhorse is about the bringing together of a family torn apart by war. It's about the common humanity that unites strangers. It's also about a boy turned man and his love for his horse.
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95 of 113 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More enjoyable for "war movie" buffs than "horse movie" fans, March 8, 2012
By 
rstack (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: War Horse (DVD)
War Horse is by no means a bad movie. It was well acted, well scripted, and in many ways a deeply moving film. But if you are a horse lover (as I am) it will likely be difficult for you to watch.

The movie follows a beautiful Thoroughbred named Joey through various phases of his life. Unfortunately, the horse has a very difficult life, changing owners numerous times and going through some really harrowing experiences. I thought perhaps some of the ugliness of war would be toned down since this movie will likely appeal to a wide audience especially because of how the ads play up the bond between the horse and the boy. While there's not a lot of blood and gore, it is still very violent and it is very much a movie about war.

I could not adequately express my issues with this movie without discussing a couple of scenes within the movie, although I have tried very hard to leave out any major spoilers. If you would like to know what kinds of scenes made this difficult for me to watch, read on (*Mild spoiler alert*):

One of the first war scenes depicts a cavalry battalion (with Joey being towards the front) ambushing a group of unsuspecting soldiers. A group of 100+ soldiers on horses rush toward the encampment and cut down several soldiers, some of them in the process of shaving and getting dressed. But there are machine guns hidden in the trees and almost the entire battalion of horses and riders is cut down by machine gun fire as they head towards the trees. Only a few horses (Joey included) survive. This was a very difficult scene to watch and countless dead horses on the ground gave you an idea of how badly horses generally fared in wartime situations.

There is another very difficult scene to watch in which Joey is running away from a tank and runs in a blind panic over and around several bunkers. He eventually runs head long through several strands of barbwire. He gets so bogged down in the barbwire that he flips end over end and is completely unable to free himself. It was heartwrenching and terrible to watch. However, the scene that follows was one of the most moving of the movie (I'll leave out the details).

One of the tired, but true, war adages that came to mind while watching this movie was "war is hell." This proves to be true for pretty much everyone in the movie, especially the horse. While this was a good movie in some respects, it is definitely not one I enjoyed watching. I hope this review helps others like me who may not enjoy watching a horse endure the ravages of war.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3 1/2 stars for some good old fashion moviemaking, December 28, 2011
By 
Most of us have read about dogs that after a distant separation from their human families, find their way back home. There are also cinematic versions. I recall "Homeward Bound: An Incredible Journey", and a Lassie film from the 1940's and I think Rin-Tin-Tin; but that might have been TV. In any case, director Steven Spielberg ups the ante, this time with a horse named Joey.

An English farmer, out of spite for his landlord (David Thewlis), buys a young horse at an auction. He needed a larger horse for purposes of plowing but was a wee bit tipsy at the time. The son, Albert (Jeremy Irvine) raises the horse that is unusually smart, strong and sociable. Eventually, in need of cash, the father (Peter Mullan) sells the horse to a young army officer (Tom Hiddleston) at the dawn of World War I. Spielberg then sets events in motion that follow Joey and his fellow horses through numerous battles, arduous labor, escapes and engagements with English and German armies and French farmers. Aided by longtime partner, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg paints a beautiful portrait of landscapes, sunrises and sunsets.

The film does stretch believability at times. Would a horse volunteer for duty to pull a canon up a hill in place of a fellow horse? It also would have made more sense to have Germans speak German and French speak French but I guess subtitles over even small sections of film would scare off some audiences. This is old fashion movie making and even with some bleak battle scenes and animal mistreatment, will attract families. Sure it's sentimental and even cheesy at times, but it has a strong moral foundation and it ultimately uplifting.
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46 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A long faced look at war, February 28, 2012
This review is from: War Horse (DVD)
More recently as Steven Spielberg has become a more active producer, his directing credits are becoming less common.

In 2011 he produced the brillant Super 8, one of my favorites, directed by JJ Abrams, the creator, writer and occasional director of Lost, and the recent Star trek. Super 8 is a great nostalgia piece evoking the early eighties, a movie within a movie, and an homage to Spielberg's earliest movies. Spielberg also produced Cowboys and Aliens, a somewhat weird meshing of two genres.

Now with Warhorse Spielberg directs, and shows his masterful touches throughout. In fact, if you are like me you can see traces of many great movies of the past. The early portions of the movies showing English countryside scenes, and the musical soundtrack of John Williams are reminiscent of John Ford's The Quiet Man. Trench warfare scenes are reminiscent of that all time classic All Quiet on the Western Front. Incidents relating to deserting soldiers are thematically reminiscent of Kubrick's Paths of Glory.

War, as bad as it is, somehow seems worse when an innocent animal is involved, which ultimately makes Warhorse the ultimate anti war polemic. And we have a love story between a young boy Albert, and a horse named Joey. As the movie begins we see the horse being born.

Later Albert's alcoholic father instead of buying a proper plough horse, foolishly pits himself agaainst his own landlord in bidding for the flash horse Joey, instead of a huge Clydesdale, making his tenancy precarious, and imperiling his families limited fortunes. Joey faces many trials and tribulations adjusting to the plough. Here we have a wonderful perforamnce from Emily Watson as the mother, cruelly snubbed during awards season.

When the war happens the father impulsively sells the horse to the military, despite Albert's protests. Albert, understandably distressed, too young to join the military, vows to be reunited with Joey. Meanwhile Joey goes to the front, and we have a poignant scene with his new owner. He and another horse escape the war briefly, and are adopted by a teenage girl. It's not long before the war interferes again, and Joey has a series of adventures.

My favorite scene is when he gets trapped in No Mans land, and both sides have to cooperate to free him. I loved the wire clippers flying scene. I also loved the sub story about the two young German brothers, and the parallel structure about how the British deal with a similar situation.

Ultimately the horse is a silent witness to the horror of war, becoming an effective storytelling metaphor.

Later in the movie one scene I thought was a little overdone, the moment of blindfold recognition. I like to feel emotions in a movie, but not to have them evoked in a contrived way.

Warhorse certainly deserves to be nominated for Best Picture and Best Cinematography, yet I cannot help thinking that actors who vote for awards would prefer as I do to have the story centered around a human character. Nevetheless, when I was a child or young teen I loved watching movies like this, particularly Lassie Goes to war.

Another movie I recommend if you don't mind subtitles is the French movie A Very Long Engagement (English Subtitled), starring Audrey Tautou, and Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard. A girl seeks her boyfriend believed killed by being sent over the trench deliberately into no mans land for breaking military regulations. It has huge parallels with Warhorse except the protagonists are human, and also operates as a polemic. A beautifully filmed touching love story set against the war.

I think you will love it, and I hope this was helpful.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Of The Best Films Of 2011, And One More Spielberg Triumph, December 26, 2011
By 
Erik North (San Gabriel, CA USA) - See all my reviews
Since his films have accumulated somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.5 billion overall, and following the Oscar wins as Best Director in 1993 for SCHINDLER'S LIST, and 1998 for SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, director Steven Spielberg can pretty much make any film he wants, and not worry about whether it has commercial potential or not. Because of this, it should become second nature to sophisticated movie fans to expect the unexpected from the man. This is the case with his epic World War I drama WAR HORSE, one of the best films of 2011.

Based on Michael Morpurgo's book of the same name, and set in England and mainland Europe during World War I, WAR HORSE stars Jeremy Irvine as a young English lad who trains a seemingly unsuited-for-farming horse that his well-meaning but doddering father (Peter Mullan), much to the chagrin of his mother (Emily Watson), picked up at an auction in their hometown of Devon. Irvine manages to train this horse to be a solid plowing animal and also learns to ride it with sureness and dispatch...that is, until World War I breaks out, and he has to hand over the horse to the English army, which needs every able-bodied man and animal possible (this being before motor vehicles and airplanes came into being in warfare). The rest of the film depicts this war horse's journeys throughout war-torn France, until Irvine is finally reunited with his long-lost companion after he has become an enlisted English soldier and almost been killed in a gas attack during some intense trench warfare.

It is very tempting to think that Spielberg took on this project because it involved the interaction of animals with humans, but that would have been extremely obvious (not to mention dubious and manipulative as well). Anyone who knows anything about Spielberg's filmic output, however, knows that so many of his films have tended to be set in the past, like the World War II settings of SCHINDLER'S LIST and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN; the America of the 1830s for the 1997 film AMISTAD; and the America of the 1960s for 2002's CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. In WAR HORSE, Spielberg goes back close to a full century to World War I, which was supposed to be the War To End All Wars; and while what he depicts in the situations involving either Irvine, the horse itself, or both of them is not as graphic or heartbreaking as what he showed in SCHINDLER'S LIST or PRIVATE RYAN, he is still true to the historical fact of the earlier war, with its depiction of cavalry troops, trenches, and the first-ever use of chemical weaponry in war, where thousands of troops on either side were killed or burned by it.

There are unavoidable, albeit unintentional, references in WAR HORSE to other past films that are among the director's favorites, such as the depiction of Irvine's English homestead, reminiscent of John Ford's 1952 classic THE QUIET MAN and Stanley Kubrick's 1975 18th century period piece BARRY LYNDON; and the scenes of World War I echo Kubrick's 1957 classic PATHS OF GLORY (the scenes in the trenches), and Lewis Milestone's 1930 World War I epic ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. But Spielberg is a good enough director to let those references slip in via the storyline itself and not by his direction, which is as good as anything he has done throughout his career. More than just a depiction of war, family, and human/animal interaction, WAR HORSE is, at its heart, clearly a human drama of the first order, a triumph of the human spirit, in which humanity's best comes out to balance off its worst traits. John Williams' music score, with its combination of British and Irish influences, is one of his best as well; and the largely unknown English cast (excepting Watson) is excellent as well. WAR HORSE can, in the final analysis, be counted as yet one more feather in the cap for Spielberg and his cinematic canon.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Movie, December 30, 2011
I am old enough to remember, as a boy, meeting the survivors and widows of the First World War. In a sense, it has become a "forgotten" war with History Channel 1 & 2 focusing on pawn brokers and Hitler. (Not just the History Channels by the way.) War Horse brings back a forgotten era of slaughter and poor decisions by politicians. And it makes it more interesting through the eyes of Joey, and how Joey affects the lives of the many people who stumble upon him There isn't any judgement in the film, which side is "moral", but, ultimately that humanity can come to the front in an otherwise inhumane world.

This is a 5 star movie.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can a horse win an Oscar?, December 27, 2011
By 
Monkdude (Hampton, Virginia) - See all my reviews
Okay, I'll admit that War Horse tries too hard to make you cry over and over again, but it reminds me of an old fashioned epic. The acting is good all around, the locations are a sight to behold, there is some good action mixed in, and boy oh boy is that a well trained horse. Joey (the horse) has a personality all his own and I began really caring for this guy more and more throughout each of his adventures. It might be too violent for the really young ones, but this is the type of film that families can see together. Steven Spielberg has added another gem to his historic directing career. I can't wait to see what he and the great Daniel Day-Lewis do with Lincoln.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Example of Filmmaking, August 16, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: War Horse (DVD)
My first thoughts after watching this film was not particularly positive. I thought it was too long. However I could not get the film out of my mind. Images from the film kept appearing in my head. A second viewing made me realize why the film was one of the Best Picture nominations for 2011. As with other Best Picture nominations, academy members are attracted to and recognize high quality filmmaking. There should be no doubt that 'War Horse' qualifies as an example of outstanding production and acting. In lesser hands, 'War Horse' would have been an average attempt at epic filmmaking, but Spielberg is an artist and it shows in this production of beautifully staged set pieces.

'War Horse' is a film about a rural English family in the early part of the Twentieth Century that buys a thoroughbred horse that they name Joey for an exorbitant price that they cannot afford. They also needed a quarter horse, a work horse, and not a race horse for farm work. The young son of the family convinces his parents that he can make the horse productive and help save the farm. His efforts fail and Joey is sold to the army at the beginning of WW I. The son, Albert, vows that he and Joey will someday be reunited. We then follow Joey through 4 years of war and different owners.

Joey is the centerpiece of an episodic plot line which is how the original book and play was presented. Some film goers may be turned off by this. But if they look at the film in terms of plot they are missing what this film is really about. This is a film about a horse and the lives of the people he influences. There is no romance, no sex. This is a PG-13 film. War violence is present but understated. Several times, the camera looks away or conceals by foreground objects scenes that would have earned the film an 'R' rating. This is a film that could have been filmed as an historical epics of the 1960's. The retro feel of the film is just what this movie is about. Spielberg set out to create a 1960's-like film such as one that might have been made by David Lean.

The film is old fashioned in that it takes its time to tell the story. No digital camera here. It was all filmed on celluloid. No CGI except for a brief animal scene. All animal scenes are real. The camera lingers on every scene.The pastoral beauty of Southwestern England and the trenches of WW I is captured without digital fakery.

I recommend this film as one of the best of 2011.
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War Horse (Four Disc Combo: Blu-ray/DVD + Digital Copy)
War Horse (Four Disc Combo: Blu-ray/DVD + Digital Copy) by Steven Spielberg (Blu-ray - 2012)
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