Tuesday, December 27, 2011

12-25-11: A Boy and His Horse

WAR HORSE (2011) (PG-13) 146 mins. *** D: Steven Spielberg. Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullen, David Thewlis.

After being sold to the army, Albert's horse Joey is put into the heat of battle and has a profound impact on the people he meets on both sides of the war.

Considering the subject matter this film always ran the risk of being excessively schmaltzy. Unfortunately half-way through it does start taking dips in the cheese pool which really began to hurt the film.

One factor that comes into play is the necessary anthropomorphizing of the equine cast members. Obviously they don't speak but the audience needs to buy into the idea that these horses are thinking what they are. In the outset it's cute and entertaining but as the stakes are raised credibility starts to fall by the wayside.

Approaching the film, based on the novel and stage play, as a look at the people that this horse comes into contact with should be engaging. It's unfortunate that some of them come off as caricatures of the people they portray.

The symbolize that this horse conveys is never lost on the viewer. Some of it is pretty obvious while at other times it is subtle. There is one moment in the film that reminded of a moment in another. Here the two sides call a temporary cease fire so they can assist Joey. In another film "Joyeux Noel," in a fairly similar moment, during World War I a song prompts three battalions to call a cease fire on Christmas Eve. Surprisingly, Spielberg was outdone here. The wait and emotion that "Joyeux Noel" was lacking in "War Horse." As a result the scene came off as amusing rather than revelatory.

The film looked great, acting was good and the direction was fine. My main problem with the film was its execution. I'm not sure how they could have done it better but for what it is it was only mildly entertaining.

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