War Horse

wogma rating: Add to that never-watched 'To Watch' list (?)

quick review:

Unlike Black Beauty, which according to me is the only book/film that stands as a beautiful piece of literature on the relationship between man and a Horse, War Horse doesn’t match up. The film is a bit too stretched, and while the visuals are impressive and colorful, somewhere it fails to hold your emotions to its heart.

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Director: Steven Spielberg
Running time: 146 minutes
Genres: Adventure, War
More Movie Info

On being released alongside this week’s Bollywood valentine flick, Ek Main aur Ekk Tu, a friend of mine had a rather snide wisecrack to make on Spielberg’s War Horse. “So essentially, War Horse is a romantic film with a horse?” he said. In my head, I decided I would make no such presumptions; that so many rights had to make for a brilliant film (the nominations, Spielberg’s sensibilities on non-human and sensitive war films – ET, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan).

Barring John Williams’s avalanche of a background score, and Janusz Kaminski’s beautifully visualized picture of the film, War Horse is in actuality a long-drawn, schematic film about a boy and his relationship with his horse that tries to compel you to fall in love with it.

Based on the novel of the same name by British author Michael Morpugo, the film is also set at the backdrop of the World War. Albert (notable debut by Jeremy Irvine) gets attached to his purebred Joey. As the war seeps through the English countryside, his family has to sell Joey. The narrative then moves to Joey’s point of view, somewhere around 1918. He meets Emile, a French farm girl who lives with her grandfather and is a horse-owner too.

The difference between the two owners is depicted beautifully from Joey’s point of view – as Albert is passionate and rustic, Emile is gentle and subtle. Celiene Buckens as Emile is a delight, often bringing in lighter moments, as she compares the two horses to two boyfriends she never had. But before we can rest with the changing narrative we are taken back to Albert’s journey – who has set out on a mission to find Joey.

War Horse at many points becomes too epic, forcing you to feel the same sense of splendor that one must have felt with films like Schindler’s List. This film however, is nowhere close – the story is rather old-world and laborious, and so is the production design, sets and several moments of the performances by the lead actors.

To be fair, you have to give it to Spielberg for allowing the audiences to sensitize with the non-human protagonists in his film (see ET, and now War Horse). The cinematography by Spielberg’s right arm, Janusz Kaminski is meticulous and the clear winner of the film. He manages to bring out the right play of light and colours to make the film a very pretty picture.

You do feel for Joey, you move alongside him in the film, but by sheer pacing, War Horse fails to grip you. You don’t feel that lump in your throat that most World War films bring with it. The war sequences are swift and grand, reminding you of films like Kubrick’s Paths of Glory and the hues and treatment also remind you of the civil war from Gone with the Wind.

The visuals are magnanimous, but somewhere in his journey to get a “wow” out of the audience for War Horse, Spielberg has lost out on the most intrinsic part of the film – connection. War Horse remains a luxuriously larger-than-life film with a potentially heart-tugging premise, which looks pastoral and splendid but becomes too long and doesn’t stay with you.

This review is by guest reviewer Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.

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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: War sequences are quite violent
  • Language: No Expletives
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None
  • Concept: A boy’s journey to find his horse
  • General Look and Feel: Hues of green and brown, well shot landscapes

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

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