Sunday, February 12, 2012

War Horse

Year: 2011
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Kross, Celine Buckens, Niels Arestrup, Toby Kebbell

Plot: A story centering on a horse named Joey, and his relationship with his owner, a young lad called Albert. Joey's adventure takes him through World War I as he is passed on to different owners, including a British captain, a young German soldier and a little French girl.

Review: It's been a while since I've seen a Spielberg film. I skipped The Adventures Of Tintin because I wasn't a fan of the material. But I am glad that I caught War Horse, as it is a return to form for Spielberg after the atrocious Indiana Jones 4.

War Horse reminds me of the animated film Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron, where the protagonist is a horse. But unlike that film, where Matt Damon narrates the horse's thoughts, Joey the horse here leads us through the handful of people he comes across from the time of his birth until his eventual return home, without a human voice.

The other protagonist is Albert Narracott, who watched Joey being born and eventually becomes his owner, thanks to his drunk father purchasing him out of spite for their landlord. Albert trains Joey to become useful on their farm, but the arrival of World War I forces Albert's father to sell Joey to a British captain, who leads Joey into war. And from there, death after death leads Joey from place to place, always in the middle of danger, but he remains defiant and stays alive till he can find his way home.

Spielberg directs a beautiful film which is based on a book and subsequent stage play, and it's just riveting and a sight to behold. Not only is Spielberg successful in milking the right emotions from the audience throughout the film, he also has favourite cameraman Janusz Kaminski give us some of the best cinematography I've ever seen. This is most apparent during the war scenes and the wide shots of the hills and farms, and the final sunset at the film's end is just gorgeous.

Spielberg is also blessed to have Jeremy Irvine, a brand new actor playing Albert. Irvine may be new, but he's very talented and truly convincing in the lead role. Emily Watson and Peter Mullan lend some nice support as Albert's parents. Notable also are Tom Hiddleston (Thor), David Kross (The Reader), Niels Arestrup and Celine Buckens as the British captain, the young German soldier, the old man and his granddaughter Emilie respectively, who take care of Joey throughout his journey.

Keep in mind that although War Horse is set during World War I, we won't get any Saving Private Ryan type battle scenes here, except one part where the British march across a field of barbed wire while the Germans fire on them. The most memorable scene is when a British soldier and a German soldier work together to save Joey, which provides some good humour and feelgood emotions for the audience. Not to be forgotten of course is Albert's poignant relationship with his horse, which is the glue that holds the film together.

War Horse is a fitting nominee for the Oscar's Best Picture award, for it is a truly beautiful film in every sense of the word. Recommended. (4/5)

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