War Horse

Directed By: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tom Hiddleston

When I first about Steven Spielberg's War Horse, I thought I was going to be in for a bunch of sentimental crap.  Come on.  It's a movie about a horse.  When I heard the movie was two and a half hours, only one word came to mind — damn.  I had to watch a movie about a horse for that long.  When I finally saw War Horse, I was pleasantly surprised.  Though there was a lot schmaltzy material, Spielberg damn sure knows how to make a good war movie.  Despite making a movie about a horse, the Saving Private Ryan director has no problem showing the gloom associated with war.

Though farmer Ted Naracott (Peter Mullan) intended to buy a plough horse at the auction in Devon, England, he decides to purchase a thoroughbred.  It just so happens to be a horse that his son Albert (Jeremy Irvine) has admired since its birth.  This new horse is not going to be too helpful though when he needs to plough his field or when he needs to pay his landlord Lyons (David Thewlis) for the farmlands on which his family lives.  Albert trains the horse, whom he's named Joey, and miraculously gets him to plough the field.  When a massive storm floods the crops grown on the field however, Ted does what he must by selling Joey to Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston), an English soldier headed off to the battlefield in World War I.  From there, Joey goes on a brutal journey that takes him to No Man's Land and back.

I did not think I would like a movie about a horse, but Steven Spielberg got me to drink the Kool-Aid.  As much sappy material as there is in the film, he balances it perfectly with the blood, brutality, and death that come along with war.  The tensions leading up to the Great War are running high.  The battle scenes are visceral.  Death is everywhere on and off the battlefield.  There is some downright cruel, sick stuff in this film.  From corpses littering the battlefield to torturing and killing animals, Spielberg leaves no stone unturned in his gritty depiction of World War I. 

Beyond the fact that War Horse is a riveting war movie, Spielberg has crafted a film with an old school feel.  The music by legendary composer John Williams sets the tone for every heartwarming moment and is actually quite catchy.  The cinematography is a blatant reference to classic Hollywood cinema, especially the use of silhouettes and shadows.  The storyline has more of a heart than anything you'd find in typical films today.  With the backdrop of World War I, this older filmmaking style works extremely well for War Horse.  Newly dubbed senior citizen Steven Spielberg represents for older filmmakers in his latest movie.

Though there are a couple of lulls early in the movie, Spielberg's War Horse gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.  He's really masterful when it comes to putting war on the big screen.  It makes me wish he would do more war movies.  I guess I can look forward to his upcoming film Lincoln next year when he tackles the Civil War.