War Horse (Four Disc Combo: Blu-ray/DVD + Digital Copy)
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From legendary director Steven Spielberg comes the epic adventure War Horse, a tale of incredible loyalty, hope, and tenacity. Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway play, and set against the sweeping canvas of World War I, this deeply heartfelt story begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and his young trainer Albert. When they’re forced apart by war, we follow Joey’s extraordinary journey as he changes and inspires the lives of everyone he meets. Filled with spectacularly rich visuals — and complete with never-before-seen bonus features — War Horse is a “Genuine movie masterpiece,” (Rex Reed, The New York Observer) and one of the most powerful and moving stories of friendship ever told.
The sheer physical beauty of the horse and the magnificent landscape of rural Devon, England, makes the first section of War Horse a feast for the eyes, as stalwart young lad Albert (Jeremy Irvine, in his film debut) struggles to channel the high-strung energy of newly bought horse Joey into plowing a rocky field. A destructive rainstorm forces Albert's father (Peter Mullan, Boy A) to sell Joey to an army captain (Tom Hiddleston, Thor) who takes the horse into the battlefields of World War I. From there, turns of fortune lead Joey into the hands of a German private, a French girl and her grandfather, and then into the cratered no man's land between the warring armies. War Horse is jarringly uneven. Some moments are over-the-top while others are elegantly understated; the tone ranges from the broad comedy of a mid-1970s Disney live-action flick to the raw majesty of a John Ford western. The episodic storytelling doesn't help--the characters don't have time to fully establish themselves in the audience's hearts, despite some excellent performances. The greatest weakness is that director Steven Spielberg doesn't connect us to Joey himself; though it's impossible not to have moments of empathy with the trials of this beautiful animal, at other times the horse is no more than a narrative device, carrying us from one micro-story to another. Still, some episodes are unquestionably compelling (a sequence in which a British and a German soldier collaborate to rescue Joey is particularly good) and, though stylistically all over the place, War Horse is never less than visually stunning. --Bret Fetzer
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Top Customer Reviews
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
The story is about a young man who ends up with a colt he has to teach, so he can maintain his farm. Unfortunately, the horse is eventually thrust into a war and separated from the boy.
It's a very interestinh, yet heart-wrenching story that makes you realize what many had to go through during various wars, and it doesn't just grip you in the beginning. It holds your attention all the way to the the final pages, with a magnificent end. Truly, a tear-jerker, without being mushy. I highly recommend it for all ages.
Grandfathers were young Officers in WWI. and taught me how to ride. I replaced this movie due to the horrid land lady stealing it and many of my british books, Models and family items.
And there were times I wondered where the title horse was. Seems the title horse was played by 17 (!!) horses, who looked significantly different, even with the badly painted mark on the horse's forehead. <sigh>
The movie was filmed as if it were on a stage. Everything felt tight, close, too stylized, very theatrical. The translation from stage to screen denied the screenplay any feeling of scope or reality. It was too faithful. <sigh>
My husband who loves any kind of horse story loved it. I had to cover my mouth and not groan. 3 stars is 2.5 stars rounded up because I love my husband. <sigh>