Bottom Line: Perhaps the biggest letdown of all nine 2011 Best Picture nominees.
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Jeremy Irvine
Gorgeous but sorrowfully ineffective war drama opens with a drunken man by the name of Narracott purchasing a Thoroughbred for thirty guineas, in early 20th century England. His wife is angry with him when he brings it back, not knowing what to do with it, but his son Albert (Jeremy Irvine) is eager to own and take care of the horse. Albert begins to care for the horse, whom he names Joey, but it isn’t long before the horse is needed when England becomes involved in World War I. In love with his horse, Albert makes every desperate effort to enlist in the war and stay close by his horse.
Despite the grandeur it may appear to possess, WAR HORSE is merely a mixed bag. If the Academy had ever optioned an award for the Best Achievement in Cinematic Beauty (fat chance), this would have been an automatic win. The fashion in which plains, prairies, fields, and even horses are depicted is downright beautiful. There’s also John Williams’s typical effort in a musical score here. He’s worked on every feature-length Spielberg picture except 1985’s THE COLOR PURPLE, and his music kept me barely awake There should have been no reason, though, for WAR HORSE to have been nominated for Best Picture. It’s great in every technical aspect, but it fails at an even plot. The film starts out as a wholesome, sweet animal picture, and it takes little time when it eventually chooses to elevate drastically into a violent, intense war movie. After that, it continues to meander almost mindlessly between the two.
Steven Spielberg has only disappointed me twice that I can recall: his war comedy 1941 and his twist on children’s literature HOOK were both scarcely watchable for me. As he has directed many more films that have all proven to be great, I was convinced he would not fail me once more. I was wrong. WAR HORSE isn’t quite difficult to watch, but it certainly is boring, never saved by its pervasive beauty. It seems all too much like a film that was either overworked or not executed carefully enough.