Films | War Horse – Movie Review

War Horse – Movie Review

Posted by FATEMA H.KAGALWALA on February 11, 2012 | No Comments

PRODUCER – Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg
DIRECTOR – Steven Spielberg
WRITER – Lee Hall and Richard Curtis (screenplay), Michael Morpurgo (Novel ‘War Horse)
CAST – Peter Mullan, Emily Watson, Jeremy Irvine, Benedict Cumberbatch, Celine Buckens
MUSIC – John Williams

War Horse has several precedents such as National Velvet, Black Beauty, Seabiscuit, The Horse Whisperer and so on. All have been made with a story revolving around a horse and his relationship with his keeper and all based on a book. War Horse goes a similar route but unlike other films in the genre, it tells a story of wider truths in the context of grimmer realities.

War Horse is a story of an extraordinary horse Joey, in the dire circumstances of the First World War. A thoroughbred, Joey is bought by farmer Ted Naracott (Peter Mullan) even when he needs a plough horse, just to spite his landlord. His young son Albert (Jeremy Irvine) takes up the challenge of training the colt to plough their fields and develops a deep bond with the horse in the process. But that challenge is only the first one in the life of Joey who is soon sold to the British cavalry. From then on, Joey changes hands from master to keeper to saviour as his magnificence and superlative courage attract deepest emotions in equine-loving hearts be it tough soldiers, tender horse-keepers or the feisty little farm girl Emilie (Celine Buckens). Life comes a full circle and Joey is re-united with his beloved master under the most gruelling circumstances and among much emotion, right on the battlefield.

The story of the film makes for immense drama, teary emotion and splendid action and Spielberg does not let any opportunity slip in squeezing it to perfect advantage. One dramatic episode after other makes up the destiny of Joey as we are egged on by a palpable tug of emotion chugging us. The film zooms in on the battle sequences with force and does not squirm while presenting the inescapable dirt and death of the war. Here, we see some of the best shot sequences and humane pictures of human interactions on a battlefield riddled with bombs, bullets and bayonets.

In the true style of Spielberg, the film captures spectacular visuals that evoke grandeur and serenity at once. Janusz Kamiński’s cinematography mixes the magic of the Devon landscape with the cold and cutting ambience of the battlefield, presenting a majestic silver screen affair matched perfectly with John Williams sweeping background score.

The film wears a very traditional sensibility of dealing with emotion and presents the entire film with a seemingly melodramatic flourish. In choosing the singularly sentimental note, Spielberg makes a drama film with a lot of flair and heart but something that remains far less stunning in its craft and story-telling singularly focusing on evoking choking tears in the throat. Subtlety is an alien concept here and hence all the characters, from the stoic and weathered Peter Mullan to the vulnerably young Jeremy Irvine to the unblemished, heroic soldiers Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston) and Geordie officer Colin (Toby Kebell), and Emily Watson as the strong and sturdy Rose Naracott play their roles with an archaic showiness.

The film is a picture of human and animal relationships taking a wider look at the brutality of war. Unfortunately, it remains limited in its explorations and the lack of subtlety greatly hurting an otherwise brave film.


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