A Dreamer Walking

War Horse- Review

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on January 10, 2012

War Horse is a passionate tale that takes place during World War I. The only clear villain of the film is the Great War itself. We see stories unfold on both sides. The film is full of loss, but what sticks out is hope. Their is a sentiment to this film that makes many critics stop liking Spielberg as much as the Fincher’s and Scorsese’s of our time. However, the heart and emotion so openly expressed in this film is what draws me so deeply to Spielberg’s work. The Sentiment of this film does not feel fake. It is genuine because Spielberg believes deeply in what he is expressing on screen.

War Horse opens to a beautiful landscape. The land moves us in this film just as much as anything else. We see it in it’s glory with beautiful sunsets and warm colorful country sides. We are drawn in because of it. The innocents we see at the beginning of the film in the land and characters is even more cherished because they do not last. When war comes we see the land change. It gets corrupted by the evils of battle and bloodshed. The vibrant greens and warm reds slowly turn to gray. The land is cut into to create trenches. It gets infected by, machine guns, canons, and barb wire.

The land is a direct reflection of the emotional state of the star of the movie, Joey. He is a horse and we follow him from birth. He is foolishly bought by an old handicapped farmer named Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan). The true heart of the story begins when Joey is introduced to Ted’s son Albert, played by  Jeremy Irvine. For being his first big role Jeremy does a fair enough job. Everything relies on us buying into the relationship he creates with Joey. Unlike most Hollywood films these days Steven Spielberg is not afraid to take his time at the beginning of his movies. Spielberg spends a good half hour getting us connected with the relationship between Ted and Joey. We are sold with their relationship by the time Joey is sold away by Ted to a kindhearted English Captain (Tom Hiddleston). This starts a series of smaller stories we experience through out the rest of the film as Joey is pulled deeper and deeper into the Great War.

Through Joey we are shown the humanity of both sides of the war. The war is the only evil in the film and Spielberg does a delicate job expressing it’s cruelty. War Horse is the ideal film to introduce a younger audience to the evils of war. The film is not for all ages. However, it portrays war and violence in a much more bearable way then films like Saving Private Ryan or Glory. We see the war’s evil without needing to constantly turn our head from the screen. Spielberg knows the most impacting images often come from the imagination of the audience. Joey is found and treated well by both sides. However, the requirements of war come close to killing him several times in the film. Joey gives us plenty of reason to like characters who fight on both sides. We also see Joey’s profound influence of several characters in the film.

The images of evil are bearable because of the humanity Joey brings to this war film. Spielberg allows us to cherish Joey without making him seem too smart or mobile to be a real horse. My only criticism of the film would be that at times the acting feels a bit overdone and insincere. However, Spielberg more then makes up for this. The pace, visuals, and story of the film will remind many of old classics. Cutting is used sparingly. The film is mostly shot with wide angle lens’ and the story is in no hurry. Cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski’s work has never been better then in this film. Spielberg and Kaminski bend light in magical ways. The ending has some of the most touching shots I have ever seen. John Williams’ music flows as well as ever. It consumes us without ever feeling overpowering. The movie transports us back to the beginning of the twentieth century through the making of the film and the era it portrays.

War Horse is a instant classic it has all the elements of great storytelling, which would have been just as entertaining to those in the 30s and 50s as it is to us today. In the movie Joey represents the land itself. When war comes and the land is torn apart, Joey reflects it’s pain. The movie is a commentary on what it takes to make this world good. The land we live in can provide many good things if we are willing to come together and treat it well. If the world stopped caring Joey would die. Thankfully in this movie the world cares. At several points in the film Joey’s life is brought to the edge, but humanity wins. In the end War Horse is a sincere story about trying to find humanity in a time of war.

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