War Horse

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.

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19 thoughts on “War Horse

  1. I will tell you what sucked, this movie. In our review of the film my brother referred to this film as “Bore Horse” and he was spot on. I expect more from a director of Spielberg’s prowess. Perhaps he has been hanging around with George Lucas too much, but this film was so syrupy and emotionally manipulative that I almost could not sit through it. I must have checked my iphone 5 times to see how much time was left. Great review of a terrible film

  2. I don’t think to say “you suck” is really an appropriate response. There is just a difference in opinion. I agree in that the movie was well made and it wasn’t bad, but I don’t think that it was worthy of an Oscar Nomination. My daughter, who is a huge horse fan, loved it. I love animals as well, but I found at some point wondering when the movie would end. It just didn’t hold my attention as some films will. It certainly did not compare with other Spielberg films. Perhaps a B would be a better grade, but as I said, difference of opinions. That’s the great thing about being an American……we can all have our opinions…..

    • I wouldn’t skip it. I don’t know your tastes very well, but many people seemed to love this one. I can see why: it’s an animal movie that renders its time period appropriately. The flip side is if you’re not an animal lover, it could easily bore you. It’s basically an animal movie all around (just not always a standard one), but it doesn’t really drive itself into war territory until at least forty-five minutes through. I’m not much of an animal lover (except for dogs), so I was yawning myself to sleep and narrating to keep myself awake.

  3. While don’t agree with what you say at the end of the second paragraph (I think the transition between “animal movie” and war movie was pretty smooth), I agree that it is ineffective. For me, it was too corny and manipulative.

    • Everybody was raving about how spectacular this one was, but I just don’t see what’s so great about it. Granted, my sister loved it, but that’s because she loves animals, esp. horses. I thought it was more for animal lovers who needed a catharsis.

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