(directed by Steven Spielberg, 2011)
**** (out of 5)
> The beautiful, thrilling trailers for this lush film, coupled with Spielberg’s remarkable track-record, made me eager to see his current 2011 year-end release: WAR HORSE.
. I only waited a few days to rush out and see it on the big screen.
. I’m glad I did, but the good news, is also the bad news: WAR HORSE is exactly what you’d expect: no less, but unfortunately no more than meets the eye. Yes, the landscapes are breathtaking; the John Ford-like cinematography is uniformly stunning; the horses are gorgeous, magnificent creatures with obvious inherent dignity; the grand, stirring score by John Williams is predictably lush and romantic; Spielberg showcases yet another fresh-faced, inoffensive young lead actor, and props him up with excellent character actors, giving solid performances. Most impressive is the wonderful turn from actor Niels Arestrup. I recently saw him as a nasty, amoral gangster in the gritty French prison pic: A PROPHET. Seeing his warm, humanistic portrayal of the grandfather in WAR HORSE exposes his extraordinary range. There was great casting all around, even if once again, Emily Watson [one of my favorite screen actresses] has a thankless role with little to do but look on soulfully and crankily stand by her man.)
. Yes, it’s entertaining to watch, despite it’s two-and-a-half hour running time; and again the whole thing is topped with a generous helping of Spielberg-sentiment; it is an old-fashioned Hollywood spectacle with grand battle scenes and intimate emotion- but it can’t escape being a little hollow at the center. Filled with great moments, it is not a great movie.
. One thing rarely mentioned in the hype/other reviews I’ve read: This film does show cruelty to animals. It has to. From my perspective, using horses in war because we humans are unable to resolve our differences peacefully IS a form of animal abuse. Despite one scene graphically depicting the German army’s abuse and disposal of used-up horses into a pile of corpses, Spielberg tastefully pulls his punches. Yet for a film that is basically sweetness and light, all does not end well for several characters. Thankfully and to his credit, Mr. Spielberg has the courage not to shy away from the horrible human (and equine) cost of war. This is not SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, but it is also not REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM.
. This year Spielberg is competing against… himself! His other Christmas release for 2011 is the kinetic joyride: THE ADVENTURES OF TIN TIN. Frankly, it was a lot more fun. See it in 3-D! (And bring the kids.)
© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.