Tuesday, December 27, 2011

War Horse

Steven Spielberg is the perfect director to blend action, sweeping drama, sentimentality, and high emotion brilliantly in this story of a magnificent horse named Joey. The plot is tailor made for a director of Mr. Spielberg's talents. He can show you the horror of war and at the same time, the schmaltz of a final shot taken right out of "Gone With The Wind". This is a grand story of love, survival, and honor between a horse and every life he touches, human or otherwise in a time of madness.

The story is simple on the surface. When England goes to war with Germany, thousands of horses are shipped to France for the British Calvary. One of these horses is Joey, who is sold by his owner to save the family farm, even though his teenage son, Albert, can't bear to lose his beloved horse. Albert soon joins the war in an effort to find Joey among all the chaos. Once overseas, we follow Joey as he protects Topthorn, another horse he has befriended, as the two follow a torturous path through war-torn France. The human actors, including Emily Watson, Peter Mullen, Jeremy Irvine, and David Thewlis, take a back seat to the relationship between Joey and Topthorn, which is the most honest and beautiful bond in the film.

Mr. Spielberg films the battles on the open fields and in the trenches with the same intensity of his earlier work in "Saving Private Ryan" but resists the graphic detail, ensuring a "family film". Even the way he frames an execution (fantastic by the way) is family-friendly. Besides the remarkable shots on the battlefields, the film is filled with gorgeous images of the various landscapes and of course, the horses themselves.

Once again teaming with John Williams, Mr. Spielberg stirs our emotions with powerful orchestrations that are totally manipulative at times. Of course, this is to be expected in a Steven Spielberg film so it's easily forgiven. Besides the music, the cinematography is breathtaking and there are visual moments that will stay with you long after the film ends.

Besides your popcorn, make sure you have tissues ready when the lights go down. And if you have the chance, see "War Horse" the play, live at Lincoln Center for a thrilling night of theater.

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