Review: War Horse

Steven Spielberg's War Horse

Be brave

I believe that Spielberg is one of the best, if not the best director in terms of emotionally manipulating an audience. That sounds bad but it’s not. The objective of every director is to manipulate his or her audience to get the desired reaction and it’s a skill that Spielberg has excelled at.

Such is the emotionally earnest content on offer in War Horse that it would not surprise if people loved or hated it in equal regard. Manipulation can be very overt and there are times with Spielberg where it’s plain to see what he’s reaching for. It works well here in creating an entertaining, old fashioned and visually sumptuous story.

Adapted from Michael Morpugo’s book, War Horse follows thoroughbred foal named Joey, reared in Norfolk and looked after by Albert (Jeremy Irvine), the son of a drunken farmer(Peter Mullan) whose farm has fallen into disrepair and debt. When war is declared, Joey is sold and the film follows several strands all linked by this one horse.

Reflecting on the film its problems are apparent quickly. Some story strands aren’t long enough to become invested in, which is surprising as the film is 146 minutes long. The end is very melodramatic, virtually relentless in how it inflates and deflates expectations and tugs at your heart-strings.

Despite that, there’s a genuine strength to all of this. Spielberg is a sure hand at this type of film-making, going for an emotionally devastating blow in one moment that’s offset by swelling optimism in the next.

It’s the moments that focus on the horses that are most involving, portraying a horse in the midst of a horrific war. It’s in these scenes where War Horse earns its spurs, depicting the abuse and neglect,  showing how were worked to death or left to die as the war churned on and recorded a ghastly toll on all forms of life.

With an engaging John Williams score, gorgeous cinematography by Janusz Kaminski and Spielberg’s tremendous eye for composition, War Horse is sure to wear some out with its sentimentality but it’s a fine, straightforward film of simple pleasures. If you can take your cynical hat off, you’ll be whisked away on Spielberg’s cinematic journey.

7/10

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Posted on 11/01/2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I usually don’t feel manipulated by Spielberg movies, but in this one it was bad and didn’t really like it because of it. It’s worth watching though for some amazing scenes.

    • I think that’s a testament to how good he can be, War Horse is a little less subtle than some of his other works and it shows. I enjoyed it despite those sentimental moments, people started clapping at the end of the screening i saw it at!

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