Coming To DVD

2 Apr

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The War Horse:

REVIEW:

The War Horse directed by master story teller Steven Spielberg is pure Spielberg from the very first shots of the horse being born to the final meticulous shot of the horse returning home from war.

The simplistic qualities of the screenplay by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis are derived from the 1982 best-seller for young people by Michael Morpurgo on which the film is based. Albert, just a teenager when the story begins, develops an almost anthropomorphic bond with the feisty thoroughbred his stubborn, wastrel father buys on a dare at auction. In fact, since the only animals worth owning on the far from user-friendly farmland of Devon are plow-horses, the Narracotts’ impulsive father Ted (Peter Mullan), long-suffering wife Rosie, (Emily Watson) and earnest young Albert (newcomer Jeremy Irvine) are derided and laughed at by both villagers and their wealthy, villainous landlord, Mr. Lyons (David Thewlis). If Albert can’t keep his promise to teach Joey how to plow their rocky terrain, the horse will have to be sold for rent money.

In the scene that follows, you will probably learn more about early 20th century plowing than you ever wanted to know, but thanks to Spielberg’s direction and Janusz Kaminski’s magnificent camera work, it is remarkable and heart-wrenching to watch.

When World War I breaks out in 1914, Albert is too young to enlist, but that doesn’t stop Ted from selling Joey to a British cavalry officer, the aristocratic Capt. Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston) who promises the devastated Albert that he will care for the horse and do his best to return him after the war.

When Joey goes to war the film becomes episodic and through a great deal of luck and good fortune we follow Joey’s journey from new owner to new owner. The war scenes are filmed in the technique Spielberg used in Saving Private Ryan where you can see in slow motion and clarity every shot fired, every man and horse running for their lives, every bombardment etc. Through it all Spielberg never lets us forget the small human stories that evolve around the miracle horse Joey.

A french farmer and his granddaughter adopt the horse and hide him from the invading German soldiers. Ultimately Joey is taken by the Germans and used as a work horse to move heavy artillery. He is set free by his keeper a German soldier whose compassion and understanding is in sharp contrast to his commanding officers.

After Albert joins the war he and Joey are reunited after a series of events that includes the horse running away from a German fox hole across enemy lines and getting entangled in barbed wire. This is the most harrowing scene in the film and young children could be frightened by it. From both sides an English Soldier and German Soldier work together to free the horse from his entanglement. A warm and human moment in the middle of a war zone reminiscent of a certain WW1 Flying Ace and his canine adversary at Christmas.

John Williams’ music seemed almost out of place here and when ever the music played during a scene in the countryside I couldn’t help but think of music in The Lord of The Rings Trilogy, I kept waiting for a hobbit to wander out of the shire. In spite of that The War Horse is solid entertainment and among the best movies this season.

Spielberg did not harm any animals in the making of this film, though some scenes with animals are intense.

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2 Responses to “Coming To DVD”

  1. psychcine April 2, 2012 at 1:09 am #

    Thanks for the summary/review. I’m looking forward to the DVD release as I too thought it was a great film!

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