War Horse Directed by: Steven Spielberg Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Thewlis Running Time: 2 hrs 26 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: December 25, 2011
PLOT: A young man (Irvine) and his horse serve separately during World War I. As the battle takes over the land, the horse encounters many different leaders.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Even though it depicts WWI, War Horse offers a heavily family-friendly presentation of such events. Those who try to keep up with Oscar predictions would be smart to at least consider catching War Horse, a movie bound to pick up some nominations in the next few weeks.
Steven Spielberg's War Horse is a movie that shines, in both positive and negative ways. If the movie were to be made into a concrete thing, it would be a fancy new memorial dedicated to all soldiers of the world, represented by a strong-standing horse that gleams in the sun (and like an Oscar, sure). War Horse is a polished work without any rough edges, focused more on the romanticism of heroism than the actual gory detail of battle. It's not without a couple of memorable warfare images, but it also has a notable lack of blood despite showing trench warfare. It can seem too neat for a war movie.
But look beyond just the gleam of War Horse, and you'll find a beautiful and structured poem of a film that rhymes its characters and storylines, while telling its story exactly in the way one would expect Spielberg to do so. It's a tale of brotherhood, and it's a tale of battle. Yes, this is absolutely from the same guy who watered down The Color Purple years and years ago.
Just like his recent Tintin character, Spielberg's young lead Irvine has an almost whimsical innocence to him, representing youthful dreams and determination more than an actual human being. He is wide-eyed and handsome, and in classic Spielberg fashion, not without moments in which he confronts mortality, in awe.
The same can be said for Joey, the title horse of the movie. The horse doesn't talk, thankfully, but Spielberg gives the horse reaction shots, despite a horse not being the most expressive of animals. In terms of movie animals, Joey is not the type of animal you will directly care for, so much as what he represents. I never felt emotional about Joey, but certain events with Joey at the center were fairly involving.
As the story of War Horse moves Joey from one "owner" to the next, the film becomes a "Who's Who" of notable British actors, including Cumberbatch, Hiddleston (formerly Loki in The Avengers), Thewlis and Toby Kebbell. None of them particularly stand out, rather their stories all speak to each other to give War Horse its rich and memorable depiction of heroism.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10