Before I begin my review of “War Horse,” I just wanted to write a quick note on how my take on movies will go. If you’re not the type to care or read what critics say about a film because at times they seem too haughty, I’ll bring a toned down version of that and mix it with what I believe truly reflects what the everyday person wants to know before taking a couple hours out of his or her day at the theater.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that what matters most to moviegoers is the story being told, and not necessarily the technical side of making said film.
With “War Horse,” Steven Spielberg’s triumphant return as director (let’s forget about the last Indiana Jones) since 2005’s “Munich,” he captures the perfect blend of both.
John Williams, the best movie score composer of all time, produces wondrous music that matches the emotion that can be found on the screen. Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography is truly breathtaking.
In one scene, a cavalry of men on horses race through an overgrown field and seemingly burst through it toward a battle. The picturesque scenery is almost a character in itself, providing a mostly gloomy and at one point truly iconic — think “Gone With the Wind” — red sunrise/sunset.
Ironically enough, I didn’t care much for the interaction between Joey (the horse) and Albert (the boy) as much as that of Joey’s relationship with a young French girl, Emily, who is a sickly child living with her grandfather when Joey comes into her life.
Perhaps it’s because of how much of a scene stealer she turns out to be. Perhaps it’s her storyline. Perhaps too much of the focus with Joey and Albert was making the horse out to be obedient and the miracle that would save the family from an evil, one-dimensional landlord trying to intimidate an alcoholic father.
The start of the film drags on somewhat, but picks up at a great pace when World War I comes around. Spielberg, after all, is no stranger to making great war films.
But what makes the movie remarkable is how — in my opinion — the horse who plays Joey easily outshines his human counterparts, bringing the more relatable elements to the screen: his friendship with another horse in the army, his loyalty, his courage. One can read the emotion in his eyes.
It made me wonder if this sort of thing is translated the same way onstage with puppetry used to embody the horses. Nevertheless, the story of this war horse, so unbelievable yet emotion-grabbing, makes it near impossible for there to be a dry eye.
Toward the beginning of the film as Joey and Albert say their goodbyes when Joey is bought by an officer in the English army, the man who must take Joey away is thrown off by Albert’s love for the four-legged animal and proclaims, “It’s a horse, not a dog!”
And it’s a good thing, at that.
My take: SEE IT!