Tuesday, September 25, 2012

DVD Review: War Horse

This review will be brief, unlike War Horse.

Spielberg adapted the stage play of the same name into a movie.  The idea is that we encounter the lives of people in Europe before and during World War I.  The common thread that they all have is care of an English horse named Joey.

Along the way we spend time with a poor farming family, a brave cavalry officer, two young German brothers, a sick young girl and her grandfather, a plump horse tender, and soldiers surviving No Man's Land.

The only character you ever feel strongly for is Albert (Jeremy Irvine), the young man who trains Joey and cares for him like a friend.

I haven't seen the stage play, but from what I understand, there is a spectacle of a puppet that looks and acts like a real horse.  Here, the the horse looks and acts like a real horse because it IS a real horse.

Also, based on the story, the horse is merely a background performer that serves as a catalyst for the other characters to develop.  In Spielberg's movie, he makes the horse a character with emotions, heroic actions, and an arc.  And THAT is the main problem with the movie.

It's a horse!

Actual people are dying all around.  The horror of war is that it kills people, not horses.

To be sure, the wanton destruction of horses is bad.  But they're horses.

In the movie Defiance, Daniel Craig plays the leader of a rebel band of Jews hiding from the Nazis.  When winter comes and the people starve, he shoots his horse for the meat.

Sad?  Yes.  But totally the right call to save starving people.  The movie seems to place the value of Joey's life at the same level as the humans.  And that bothers me.

I know that in movies with Benji and Lassie we also sympathize with the animal.  But this is war and people are dying.

Also, the movie is ironically too long and too short.  It is too long in terms of overall length at nearly 2 1/2 hours.  But we spend too little time in the side stories to care all that much about what happens.

They should have dumped the stage script and made the movie about Albert and used the horse as a metaphor for how war transforms you.

The visuals are fine, but nothing special, especially for Spielberg.  The acting is also respectable.

The score is good.  Too good for this movie.

2 out of 5 stars

1 comment:

  1. It is manipulative, corny, and very schmaltzy but somehow Spielberg won me over by the fact that he can make any story feel emotional and that No-Man's Land scene just really had me the whole time. Great review.