The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum
thevideovacuum

DIRECTOR SPOTLIGHT: STEVEN SPIELBERG

WAR HORSE (2011) ** ½

A horse is bought by a drunk whose son Albert (Jeremy Irvine) raises him and calls him “Joey”. They become friends and he trains him against all odds to be a plow horse to save his father’s farm. When World War I breaks out, Joey is sold to a charming soldier who vows to take extremely good care of Joey. Throughout the war, Joey changes hands with many owners while Albert enlists, hoping to be reconnected with his horse.

Steven Spielberg is channeling the spirit of such films like National Velvet, The Yearling, and Black Beauty with War Horse. It’s your basic Boy and His Horse story grafted onto a historical war movie. It’s unabashedly old-fashioned, which I think is one of its strengths. Only someone like Spielberg could’ve gotten away with this sort of sentimental schmaltz.

Whether or not you completely buy the sentiment, is entirely up to the viewer.

I think if I saw this movie as a teenager, I’d be way too cynical to appreciate it. If I was a little kid, I probably would’ve loved it. As an adult, I’m afraid I fall somewhere in between. But if you have an open mind and an open heart, you might enjoy it.

The early scenes cloyingly pull at your heartstrings, but run on just long enough so they don’t run out their welcome. Once Joey becomes an enlisted man, the flick turns into Saving Private Ryan’s Horse. There are a handful of decent war scenes here, although they’re just meant to be broad strokes of the overall war. The excellent performances by Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, and Emily Watson help.

As a fan of Steven Spielberg, I had fun spotting his distinct visual style on display. I also liked the various nods to filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, Victor Fleming, and John Ford as well. As a whole, I can’t say it all worked, but War Horse is a mostly satisfying middle of the road picture from Spielberg.

Tags: .director spotlight, drama, spielberg, w
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