Thursday, January 26, 2012

War Horse

Tonight I saw War Horse, starring Jeremy Irvine and Emily Watson.

It's been a long time since I've made it through an endurance test like this. I had a feeling it wouldn't be my cup of tea, and sadly, it wasn't.

Albert (Irvine) is the young son of a drunken farmer who promises his mother, Rose (Watson), that he will train and care for the horse his dad paid too much for at auction. The horse's name is Joey, and he's—of course—beautiful and smart.

By the time Albert and Joey bond, drunken papa has sold the horse to the Army. Though all signs point to the horse being lost/killed in WWI, Albert claims he will see him again. He's not kidding.

Calling them a series of unfortunate events would be a gross understatement. Let's just say, poor Joey goes through hell. In fact, the only scene that got me misty-eyed was the one where the horse tries to escape the human horrors of war only to get completely tangled in barbed wire. This prompts soldiers from both sides of the fight to take a time out from combat and help the poor animal break free. The bit was wonderful and reminded me of another film where soldiers pause in war to share one another's company peacefully during a holiday called Joyeux Noel. But I digress.

Joey gets passed off to several owners during his journey, and his journey (along with ours) is a long one.

The redeeming moments of the film have everything to do with the beautiful cinematography, the excellent score (seldom does Spielberg ever get that wrong) and the acting from the horse. Yes, the horse.

I'll admit to loving the closing shot—something that reminded me of Gone With the Wind, and was most likely intended to.

It's just a shame that the majestic, amber sunset didn't arrive before I got bored.


1 comment:

JG said...

A good friend of mine gave the perfect summation after seeing WAR HORSE. He said, "I'm not sure if it's a great film, but it definitely counts as great filmmaking." He went on to say that there are too many whopping coincidences in the plot to be taken at face value, but because the story is told with such emotional power, the viewer cannot help but be taken in by it.

As a side note, did you know that Steven Spielberg watches four films before shooting a feature of his own? They are: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, SEVEN SAMURAI, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, and THE SEARCHERS. In WAR HORSE, a couple of shots in the horse auction scenes are lifted directly from the Damascus Arab conference scene in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. The scene in which Emily rides Joey over a hill and into an area where a German army unit has set up camp is borrowed from a famous horizon shot in SEVEN SAMURAI's final battle scene. There are also hints of HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY and ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT sprinkled here and there.

My biggest qualm with the movie is that it failed to deliver the emotional wallop promised by the trailer. In the final analysis, however, WAR HORSE deserves to be considered a well-made film; not quite in the realm of SCHINDLER'S LIST or SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, but vastly superior to WAR OF THE WORLDS and MUNICH.