Glamour for an Old Nag
As a boy Albert (Jeremy Irvine) was there when Joey was born in the middle of a field, and he was the one who stepped up to the mark to train Joey when his father Ted (Peter Mullan) returned home from auction with this thoroughbred horse instead of a workhorse like his wife Rose (Emily Watson) expected. But when the war started and Ted could not afford to pay the rent on the farm because a storm had ruined the crop he sold Joey to the military much to the dismay of Albert. Joey's life as a war horse is an eventful one as he ends up captured by the German's and used to pull heavy artillery before ending up caught in no mans land tangled up in barbed wire. The question is will Albert ever be reunited with his beloved horse with 4 white socks and a harlequin on its forehead.
There is absolutely no denying that Steven Spielberg is a master movie maker, he has been behind some of the greatest movies in cinema's history. And there is no denying that Spielberg brings his years of experience and knowledge of other directors to "War Horse" to create a visually stunning movie. You just need to watch the final scenes with silhouetted figures against a flame coloured sky to think of John Ford, George Cukor and Victor Fleming. But "War Horse" in truth disappointed me and I don't know if that is because of the outpouring of love for this movie lifted my expectations or because I sat there thinking well this is "Son of Lassie" crossed with "Black Beauty" and maybe as a movie reviewer the story was more derivative than it would be to the general public.
So as to the story well when you look at those classic "Lassie" movies they were about a boy, his dog and the adventure which the dog undertook to get home. So it is not the same but "War Horse" is very similar especially when you watch "Son of Lassie" which involves one of Lassie's offspring end up involved in the war. But it also combines "Black Beauty" into the mix as we watch the horse go through various owners from a military man to a German horse handler who cares deeply for it and so on. All of which is I am afraid derivative and whilst the uniqueness of Joey the horse being involved in the war is different it is still familiar.
Now maybe the fact I quickly found "War Horse" cliche is why the emotion of the story and the relationships which Joey the horse forms during its war years did nothing for me. And it wasn't just cliche because with the stunning visual style it also felt extremely manipulative to the point that the movie culminates in a series of drawn out contrivances which might swell emotion in some and give them the uplifting ending they desire but it made it border on the cheesy for me.
But as I said Spielberg is a master movie maker and visually "War Horse" is stunning from the beauty of the Devonshire countryside, the mire of the trenches, the pollen filled air of a field as the sun kisses it; there is simply so many exceptionally beautiful scenes. Maybe in truth it is a little too perfect because it highlights the weakness in the storyline. But then it also distracts you from the series of slim and even cliche characters which are served up to us.
What this all boils down to is that "War Horse" is visually stunning and as a movie fan Spielberg has delivered one of the best looking movies of this century so far. But the look ends up better than the story and for me it sadly disappointed by its derivative nature. Maybe that was the intention and this was Spielberg delivering a homage to the great movie makers of a bygone era both in look and story but I had expected a lot more from the story.