Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, and so many more
I finally saw War Horse this weekend after putting it off for a couple of weeks. The trailer was making me teary so I knew that I'd be crying through part of it if not all. I was going to cry if the horse died. I was going to cry if the horse lived. There was just no way to avoid crying unless I didn't see the movie. Well I wasn't not going to see it. So I cried.
Was it perfect? No. But it was pretty great. I think my biggest complaint is that it's overly sentimental. Other than that I have no real complaints. It was shot beautifully but then that's what Janusz Kaminski, Director of Photography, does. He shoots beautiful (mostly Spielberg) movies. There was a shot at the end that was an overly orange landscape that looked impossible to achieve without some help from a computer. According to Emily Mortimer it was quite real and Spielberg even changed scenes just to capture the sky.
The acting was quite good but then that's what you should expect from a bunch of really great actors. The one to worry about was Jeremy Irvine who hadn't done more than a TV show before getting the lead role in War Horse. He was fine but most of the film's sentimentality came from his character. Then again, it was his horse in question so I guess he had a right. But he did a fine job and already has 3 more films coming up. There were lots of fun cameos for an anglophile like myself. I knew two of my favorites, Benedict Cumberbatch (pictured below, left) and Tom Hiddleston (pictured below, right) were going to be in it but I didn't know for how long. Sadly it wasn't long enough but they were in uniform so that helped.
I'm not going to get too into the story since most people probably know it or can guess correctly from the title, posters, and trailers. The short of it is: there's a boy and he has this pretty incredible horse but times are tough so the horse goes off to war. The even shorter of it is: war is hell, especially on horses. Joey, the horse, sees a lot of war and from both sides. It's through him that we see how WWI was fought and not only the futility of war but the incredible futility of using horses in a war where the enemy has tanks. Don't ever get my dad started on this subject. Anywhoodle, the Brits were stubborn but classy and wanted to fight they way they always had...on horseback with swords drawn.
I'm not going to tell you the end of the film either. I will say there were some tough moments and I had to literally cover my eyes for a good chunk of it. In my head I repeated a chant of "It's not real. This isn't really happening. It's all ok." Unfortunately that chant took me out of the movie but was a necessary protection for someone like me with a very tender heart regarding animal cruelty. I will tell you that Spielberg effectively achieved my favorite movie emotion...laughter through tears. It was necessary and welcomed and really well done.