Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
War Horse

warhorse1228.jpg
Title: War Horse

What Is It Good For? Almost absolutely nothing, unless you're desperate for a terribly clichéd, family-friendly movie about one of the bloodiest wars in human history.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: One Big Bertha out of five.

Tagline: "Separated by war. Tested by battle. Bound by friendship."

Better Tagline: "A horse is a horse, of course, of course. And no one can fight with a horse of course. That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous...War Horse."

Brief Plot Synopsis Handsome beast of burden takes us on a horse's-eye view of the European theater in WWI. I can't wait for the Universal Studios theme park ride.

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Young Albert (Jeremy Irvine) becomes attached to the colt his drunken father (Peter Mullan) buys to spite his vindictive landlord (David Thewlis), naming him "Joey" and training him to plow their rocky land even though the horse is part thoroughbred. When a storm wipes out the family's turnip crop, Dad sells Joey to Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston) of the British Army, who's mobilizing to fight Germany in World War I. From there, Joey finds himself ranging across the Continent until Albert is old enough to enlist, ending up in the Second Battle of the Somme.

"Critical" Analysis: Perhaps it's a natural consequence of aging, but Spielberg's been increasingly susceptible to sentimentality in recent years. As he comes up on the formidable occasion of directing his 50th feature film, he's shown either an uncanny ability to make family films or a disquieting tendency to take the easy road.

Take the end of War of the Worlds. Not only were Cruise's in-laws (and their suburban brownstone) completely unscathed, but his troubled son (who sprinted over a hill to almost certain death in order to do battle with the aliens) also showed up none the worse for wear.

There are exceptions. But even his "harder" films, like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List, took the foot off the pedal at times. In the former, did we ever really fear for that little girl Caparzo picked up in the French village (Caparzo himself, on the other hand...)? And while some could argue showing the red dress as the only color in the latter was much more powerful than actually portraying her demise, one could just as easily argue the opposite.

War Horse is based on the children's story of the same name by Michael Murpurgo, making it more or less a cinematic primer on nation-state conflict for kids. And that's all fine, but it's a hell of a step back for the director that put some of the most harrowing battlefield imagery ever seen on film. It also manages to be a slavish throwback to period pieces of the '30s and '40s, and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski should dedicate any resulting accolades to Gone with the Wind's David O. Selznick and Ernest Haller (the final scene might as well be subtitled "I'll never eat that shitty Devonshire hay again").

Look, as one of the most critically acclaimed/financially successful directors of all time, Spielberg has earned the right to make a 3 1/2-hour version of Chicken Soup for the Soul if he wants. But I draw the line at this obvious attempt to wring audience tear ducts, abetted as always by longtime co-conspirator John Williams, whose score helpfully bludgeons the audience over the head to remind them when something poignant is happening. Accomplished as it looks on the big screen, War Horse is shamelessly manipulative and might be Spielberg's laziest movie since The Lost World, if not 1941.

War Horse is in theaters today. I'd recommend spending some time with the family, instead. Yeah, it's that bad.


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14 comments
Wicked Tickets For New York
Wicked Tickets For New York

 I Saw this movie too... but i love the theme of loving your pet... this is awesome... i really loved it...

Richard Terrell
Richard Terrell

I found the movie interesting, but missing something vital. That missing element, I think, is at least one interesting character. I liked the scenery of Devon in the Dartmoor national park. I've been there and even recognized one particular location. That kept me going all the way through to the end of the credits. I wanted to see if I was right about the film location.

The movie is strangely empty, though.

War-Horse-finishes-last
War-Horse-finishes-last

So much hype, so little reward -- We were very disappointed with this movie in so many ways that my wife and I had to agree to quit counting and just conclude, it SUCKS!  Stephen Spielberg owes all of us a refund!  I felt like a War Horse that needed to be shot. 

walker
walker

thanks for telling it like it is!

Michaelhasenstab
Michaelhasenstab

I totally agree with Mr. Vonder Haar!  UGH...mindless and beautiful at the same time--so Hollywood! 

Sam Juliano
Sam Juliano

I think what is lazy is this laughably incompetant review.

WAR HORSE ranks with THE TREE OF LIFE, MYSTERIES OF LISBON, A SEPARATION, MELANCHOLIA, HUGO, MARGARET, OF GODS AND MEN and POETRY, DRIVE, SHAME and THE ARTIST as among the very best films of 2011.

It's a ravising epic with deep emotional resonance, one that evokes Wordsworth and the spectre of Eric Maria Remarque.

Lassie, you should have gone through with your original intent there, instead of coming here with your contrarian angst.

What a sad excuse for a critic here, but considering the geography I am hardly surprised.  Ha!

John Seaborn Gray
John Seaborn Gray

I haven't seen this movie, nor do I plan to, but here's my best guess at the story:

1. Saccharine, sentimental first half-hour full of overwrought heartwarming moments.2. Two solid hours of watching a goddamn horse nearly getting killed or seriously injured. People around him die. Other horses die. He almost dies several times. It's ugly and depressing, but multiple characters inform us not to lose hope.3. Saccharine, sentimental final half-hour full of overwrought heartwarming moments.

Am I close?

Lassie
Lassie

Saw war horse last night- My take on it as 1 who loves horses (and people): sweet, sad, horrified, stupid,horrified,sweet, more horror,sad,unbeleivable,boring,exciting, more horrific stuff, stupid,and more sad, and stuipid. All in all- I wanted to find a passing bus and throw myself in front of it- but it was raining too hard

War Horse, Schmore horse
War Horse, Schmore horse

Agreed. I went to bed on purpose during the movie and was angry when I woke up and there was still like an hour to go. Boo.

Paul
Paul

I haven't seen this much bad acting, cliched lines, sterotyped characters and outraged guests since my final year project in film school.

Jrmilt
Jrmilt

Hilarious facetiousness!

Flahammerhead
Flahammerhead

I love horses and work at a horse rescue. The movie oscillates between ridiculously corny and tragic. The acting was poor and the movie never really develops. It was a waste of nine bucks and not even worth waiting until on DVD. Yes it is tragic at times; a tragic waste of money.

walker
walker

I disagree strongly.

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