Sunday, December 25, 2011

Movie with Abe: War Horse

War Horse
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Released December 25, 2011

For epic films, there are few better choices than Steven Spielberg. “Schindler’s List,” “Amistad,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Munich” are among his more serious productions, but the Indiana Jones series, “Jurassic Park,” and “War of the Worlds” demonstrate that Spielberg is capable of tackling diverse genres with complexity and masterful visuals. Spielberg therefore seems a perfect fit to adapt the extremely successful stage play “War Horse” into a 146-minute saga chronicling the mesmerizing life of one horse and the many people he comes into contact with in the run-up to and throughout World War I.

“War Horse” is a film that seeks to establish its status as a sweeping, important movie before any of its characters even appear, featuring gorgeous cinematography by Janusz Kaminski and a triumphant score by none other than John Williams. After that introduction, the film has set high hopes for itself, which it achieves slowly but surely as it navigates past a somewhat sluggish first plotline which involves the discovery of the magnificent abilities of Joey the horse as he helps to save the Narracott family farm, encouraged by starry-eyed doting trainer Albert (Jeremy Irvine). The outbreak of the war takes him through a spectacular journey, highlighted by his interactions with the noble Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston) and the kindly German soldier Gunther (David Kross).

“War Horse,” in its narrative that constantly removes and introduces new characters, manages its most profound and meaningful moments when characters find their humanity in the midst of war thanks to the beauty and bravery of this horse. The film’s most affecting scene finds Joey caught and tangled in barbed wire, prompting two soldiers, one British and one German, to risk their lives to approach from their infantries’ safe cover to collaborate to free Joey. “War Horse” succeeds by infusing an occasionally slow, hokey, and overly dramatic plot with tender moments that are truly emotional and powerful. It’s a spectacular technical achievement, and the film is enhanced by its settings, choosing only the most visually stunning backdrops. It’s a film much more about aesthetics than about people or dialogue, and in that sense, it’s a glorious achievement. Like the initially unimpressive Joey, “War Horse” grows on its detractors, establishing a sense of wonder and turning its non-human protagonist into a true main character, endearing, lovable, and rather capable of carrying a film in which he is most certainly the primary star.


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