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Review: War Horse

War Horse
12.16.2011
9 10

PLOT: Young Albert (Jeremy Irvine) is a lad growing up on an impoverished farm in Devon. His drunken father (Peter Mullan) spends the family savings on a beautiful horse in an effort to best his landlord (David Thelwis). Albert’s mother (Emma Watson) is horrified by her husband’s purchase, but Albert feels a deep bond with the animal, which he names Joey. With the outbreak of WW1, his father sells the horse to a dashing Calvary officer (Tom Hiddleston), who’s touched by Albert’s devotion to the animal, and vows to one day return the animal to its rightful owner. But war is an unpredictable beast, and soon Joey finds himself in an increasingly dark odyssey through the blood-soaked battlefields of WW1.

REVIEW: I wasn’t prepared for this. In the days leading up to the press screening of WAR HORSE, Steven Spielberg’s latest- I was joking with friends about the premise. Yeah right, a horse in war... whatever, I thought. Boy, oh boy, was I wrong.


From the first seconds of the film, showing Joey’s birth under the watchful eyes of his soon-to-be beloved master Albert, I was hooked. It's absolutely gorgeous to look at, with DP Janusz Kaminski eschewing his usual washed-out palate, for beautiful greens and golden hues. In these early scenes, it’s like Spielberg was channeling John Ford’s HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY. But then, the film takes a dark turn upon the outbreak of war, and from there it becomes a harrowing odyssey that shows both the terror of war, as well as some of the humanity that transcended the battle lines. One thing WAR HORSE illustrates is that, initially, The Great War was fought with a 19th century chivalry that was impossible to maintain in the face of a 20th century war that dished out death on a scale that was unimaginable to even the hardest veterans.

There’s a scene about an hour in that really drives home this point, when Joey’s new master Captain Nichols (a touchingly humane performance by Tom Hiddleston that strikes me as Oscar-worthy) is forced to lead a Calvary charge, only to find his unit decimated by German artillery. There a shot contrasting the horses being ridden by their soldiers, to the horses, now rider less, jumping over the machine gun nests, that’s stirring and perhaps even iconic.


Once the film gets to the war, it becomes highly reminiscent of western called WINCHESTER ’73, which charted the fates of several old west characters as the titular rifle fell into their hands on the way back to its rightful master. We see Joey has he goes from Nichols, to a German deserter (David Kross, THE READER) to a farmer (Niels Arestrup, A PROPHET) and his sickly granddaughter, to a German soldier (Nicholas Bro, ADAM’S APPLES) who sees a humanity in Joey and his devotion to another Calvary horse that he doesn’t see in his fellow soldiers.

As the war winds on, Albert finds himself on the battlefields, leading to a climax that left me absolutely gutted. For the last twenty minutes or so, I was a quivering puddle, and this is the first time in a while that a film has had that kind of devastating, emotional effect on me.


Make no mistake; this is Spielberg at his most masterful. I’d wager it’s at least on par with MUNICH (which is brilliant up until the last 15 minutes), and might even be his best since SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Young Jeremy Irvine is a real find as Albert, and his relationship with Joey will be profoundly moving to anyone who’s ever had a close relationship with a beloved pet (I found myself thinking of my childhood dog throughout).

Naturally, some are going to attack WAR HORSE regardless of whether or not they like it, as in our cynical age emotion and humanity seems to have gone out of fashion- which is a tragedy. There’s room for optimism, and while this is a dark tale, its message- that there’s humanity in even the direst of circumstances, is one that should resonate with us all. It’s a masterpiece.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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10:51AM on 12/16/2011
I wasn't expecting to like this film as much as I did. I gave it an 8 myself, but I'm starting to think I might have scored it a little light.
I wasn't expecting to like this film as much as I did. I gave it an 8 myself, but I'm starting to think I might have scored it a little light.
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11:07AM on 12/16/2011
Great review! There is no doubt that I will be seeing this now. Sounds like the perfect film to end the year with.
Great review! There is no doubt that I will be seeing this now. Sounds like the perfect film to end the year with.
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11:36AM on 12/16/2011
Damn fine review. Looking forward to this one. I read another review that mentioned a message in the film about finding humanity even in the most dire of circumstances. I never understood sayings like that. Because it's humanity, that causes such dire circumstances. But oh well.
Damn fine review. Looking forward to this one. I read another review that mentioned a message in the film about finding humanity even in the most dire of circumstances. I never understood sayings like that. Because it's humanity, that causes such dire circumstances. But oh well.
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6:25PM on 12/16/2011
J. Burton- Humanity can refer to two different things: 1) humanity in the manner in which you define it, as a synonym for mankind, or 2) humanity in terms of a quality that defines on an essential level what it means to be a human being. Rediscovering one's lost humanity after being faced with atrocity (such as war) refers to the moment in which someone (or a group)recognizes within themselves and the 'other' the unifying factor that allows them to recapture their humanness. Sometimes its
J. Burton- Humanity can refer to two different things: 1) humanity in the manner in which you define it, as a synonym for mankind, or 2) humanity in terms of a quality that defines on an essential level what it means to be a human being. Rediscovering one's lost humanity after being faced with atrocity (such as war) refers to the moment in which someone (or a group)recognizes within themselves and the 'other' the unifying factor that allows them to recapture their humanness. Sometimes its called 'the soul', etc.
4:03PM on 12/16/2011
Nicely put.
Nicely put.
11:45AM on 12/16/2011
I'm looking forward to it, but if it's a masterpiece, shouldn't it have a perfect score?
I'm looking forward to it, but if it's a masterpiece, shouldn't it have a perfect score?
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1:08PM on 12/16/2011
Great, this review really got me amped for this.
Great, this review really got me amped for this.
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2:56PM on 12/16/2011

As a HUGE Spielberg fan...

I found the film to be abundantly schmaltzy - it's as if Spielberg has hit male menopause and wants to share it with the world. As if he was begging... no... PLEADING for me to cry, and it literally took me out in a lot of scenes.

Having said that, there are some classic Spielberg moments here and some shades of brilliance - the last twenty minutes, including the tour de force sequence where Joey runs through "no man's land" is mind-blowingly good.

I give it a 7 out of 10 - too many
I found the film to be abundantly schmaltzy - it's as if Spielberg has hit male menopause and wants to share it with the world. As if he was begging... no... PLEADING for me to cry, and it literally took me out in a lot of scenes.

Having said that, there are some classic Spielberg moments here and some shades of brilliance - the last twenty minutes, including the tour de force sequence where Joey runs through "no man's land" is mind-blowingly good.

I give it a 7 out of 10 - too many cheesy moments, but still worth seeing (and in a theater).
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6:25PM on 12/16/2011
Haha, you had me at "male menopause". Thumbs up from me.
Haha, you had me at "male menopause". Thumbs up from me.
4:48PM on 12/16/2011
what a fantastic review! Ive been dying to see this. I am even more excited now.
what a fantastic review! Ive been dying to see this. I am even more excited now.
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+0
6:43PM on 12/16/2011

Great Review!

1- I don't like over emotional dramas, particularly period pieces -there.. I've said it.

2- After "Catch me if you can", Mr Spielberg started to lose me, with Indy's Cristal Skull being one his worse.

So when I saw the trailer for War Horse I had the same "Yeah right, a horse in war... whatever" feeling, but I've got to say it:

Your review Chris completely changed my mind about it!

It's kinda like the whole "The King's Speech" powerful surprise all over again (at least for me), so
1- I don't like over emotional dramas, particularly period pieces -there.. I've said it.

2- After "Catch me if you can", Mr Spielberg started to lose me, with Indy's Cristal Skull being one his worse.

So when I saw the trailer for War Horse I had the same "Yeah right, a horse in war... whatever" feeling, but I've got to say it:

Your review Chris completely changed my mind about it!

It's kinda like the whole "The King's Speech" powerful surprise all over again (at least for me), so simply put: Thank You!
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-14
8:02PM on 12/16/2011

War Horse

That's the movie were German and French speak at each other in English... Great !!!
That's the movie were German and French speak at each other in English... Great !!!
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1:06AM on 12/17/2011
Munich is my thrid favorite Speilberg film (after Schindler's and Private Ryan.) Nothing wrong with its last 15mins
Munich is my thrid favorite Speilberg film (after Schindler's and Private Ryan.) Nothing wrong with its last 15mins
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+1
3:09AM on 12/17/2011
Didn't really doubt this would be good. As poor as some of Spielbergs more recent efforts might be, he is still a master of his art, and the trailer demonstrated this. No, it didn't really stick out as something particularly grand, but the look and feel suggested that this would be Spielberg tapping into his emotional mastery of film. And while the content may not necessarily stick out, this IS adapted from an award winning stage play as well as a revered novel. So the premise and story itself
Didn't really doubt this would be good. As poor as some of Spielbergs more recent efforts might be, he is still a master of his art, and the trailer demonstrated this. No, it didn't really stick out as something particularly grand, but the look and feel suggested that this would be Spielberg tapping into his emotional mastery of film. And while the content may not necessarily stick out, this IS adapted from an award winning stage play as well as a revered novel. So the premise and story itself obviously have some credibility. It's nice to see Spielberg not only directing again, but producing two winners in Tin Tin and War Horse.
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12:14PM on 12/17/2011
I've been awaiting this since that beautifully shot trailer was first released. Great review though surprised a masterpiece doesn't get a ten out of you!
I've been awaiting this since that beautifully shot trailer was first released. Great review though surprised a masterpiece doesn't get a ten out of you!
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10:38PM on 12/25/2011

war horse

wow what a great movie, tear jerker, everything about it is superb the cinematography is breathtaking, story line captivating ,although the main character joey is just a horse, although!!!, do most people know that 100,000 thousand horses are slaughtered in canada every year!!! to be shipped for their meat in foreign countries,check out canadian horse coalition more more info, peace!!! ps most are shipped from good old USA, unwanted race horses, AQHA, please put a stop to it!!!
wow what a great movie, tear jerker, everything about it is superb the cinematography is breathtaking, story line captivating ,although the main character joey is just a horse, although!!!, do most people know that 100,000 thousand horses are slaughtered in canada every year!!! to be shipped for their meat in foreign countries,check out canadian horse coalition more more info, peace!!! ps most are shipped from good old USA, unwanted race horses, AQHA, please put a stop to it!!!
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+1
5:02PM on 12/26/2011

WarHorse

War Horse.. made it thru about half way or so.. So much cruelty to the horses in the war.. simply could not watch after a while. First part of the movie was good. War brings cruelty to people and animals. Would be better to rent the movie so one could fast forward thru certain scenes. But some fine acting and the horses are beautiful
War Horse.. made it thru about half way or so.. So much cruelty to the horses in the war.. simply could not watch after a while. First part of the movie was good. War brings cruelty to people and animals. Would be better to rent the movie so one could fast forward thru certain scenes. But some fine acting and the horses are beautiful
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