Monday, 2 January 2012


War Horse [Review]

Opinion: A-

One of the best films of the year, Steven Spielberg once again instilled cinematic wonder in this well-crafted film with great story-telling. Production values were peaking in various aspects such as wardrobe costumes and location set design. Besides featuring great acts by both the cast and horse to evoke strong emotions, the film also boasted technical excellence in sound design/mix and cinematography.

DreamWorks Pictures’ “War Horse,” director Steven Spielberg’s epic adventure, is a tale of loyalty, hope and tenacity set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War. “War Horse” begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. When they are forcefully parted, the film follows the extraordinary journey of the horse as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets—British cavalry, German soldiers, and a French farmer and his granddaughter—before the story reaches its emotional climax in the heart of No Man’s Land.

The First World War is experienced through the journey of this horse—an odyssey of joy and sorrow, passionate friendship and high adventure. “War Horse” is one of the great stories of friendship and war— a successful book, it was turned into a hugely successful international theatrical hit that is currently on Broadway. It now comes to screen in an epic adaptation by one of the great directors in film history.

DreamWorks Pictures’ “War Horse,” director Steven Spielberg’s epic adventure, is a tale of loyalty, hope and tenacity set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War.

One of the most revered filmmakers Steven Spielberg once again displayed a distinct example of how his veteran cinematic experience would induce a remarkable difference.

For the record, I'm no fan of the filmmaker. But War Horse convinced me that Spielberg's worthy of his highly acclaimed fame. Take the element of chance, for example. In most films, weather would have been added either as a superficial form of production value or a convenient way to dramatise. In War Horse, Spielberg cleverly allowed subtle rain to make and break its protagonists.

The will of nature as well as its unpredictability were both powerfully felt.

Several of life's events were mostly left to chance and circumstances. Here in War Horse, it was no exception. While striking firmly that mankind should remain faithful to their beliefs and principles, Spielberg took up a matured stance in sending a different message.

Most films would choose to display a linear strong theme with intended values to be inculcated within its audience, such as courage, valour, and morality. In War Horse, Spielberg decided to go softer and instead focus on intrinsic human issues. Buying a horse that wasn't suitable to plough the fields out of sheer instinct and the subsequent decision made upon the horse when war broke out. The cowardly inability to retaliate against aggressors just to ensure the principle safety and well-being of their loved ones.

These softer themes would have otherwise been unwise for other inspirational films. Spielberg attempted to discuss and justify both the strength and weakness traits of mankind in this film. Not just mankind, but also the horse that constantly didn't understand the games of mankind.

With such tenderness, Spielberg went over a range of genre practice from light-hearted family fare to intense battlefield action. Surprisingly, none of them were weak chapters and worked very tightly in hand to complement one another in synergy.

Besides the artistic values instilled by the art direction, set design, and wardrobe costumes, War Horse also featured some of the best technical excellence. Cinematography by Janusz Kaminski (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List) not only stayed true to the period years of the first World War but also created a luscious canvas through the well-photographed visuals. Especially liked the ending scene of sunset where the low warm lighting was very apt and alluring.

The sound design and mix was incredible (if you noticed), which were aurally evident with every horse trot and artillery shell expenditure.

Based upon the novel by Michael Morpurgo, Joey the war horse strode through an epic span of the war and took different turns and roles during the war. All it only ever wanted was to survive the ordeal and go home to its owner Albert. There was no honour in the act itself but it reflected bravery. This contradictory theme was similarly reflected in various chapters depicting various characters, cowardice in seek of a greater hope.

Spielberg reconciled the contrast onscreen and inspired greatness through his superb command of cinema.


  1. Not really interested in this one, but I'll give it a shot anyway. According to your wonderful review, it's rather good.

  2. I was really surprised by this one, as I was coaxed into seeing it by my wife, who has to see every animal film. But it was a very powerful story and almost too intense for the length.

  3. @Nebular There was a brief moment much earlier when I thought it couldn't be better than how the trailer looked. But trust me, Spielberg does magic here. One of the best films of this year if you ask me.

  4. @Alex Much agreed, while this film also featured an animal protagonist, the horse felt like it was almost human-like stirring lots of emotions within us. Glad you caught this one and like it as well!

  5. Late to the party, but I am interested in this as I was a huge fan of the novel. The stage play was amazing. I was hesitant about seeing this, but your incredibly thoughtful review has definitely tipped the scales in favor of the film.

  6. @Melissa This will be one of the rare moments where I would vouch for the film (in consideration that everyone has varying preference in film). Simply one of the best films of 2011, do catch this! :D


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