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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > War Horse

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WAR HORSE (2011)

Starring Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, Emily Watson, Niels Arestrup, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Celine Buckens, Toby Kebbell, Patrick Kennedy, Eddie Marsan, Leonard Carow, David Kross, Robert Emms, Pip Torrens, Geoff Bell and Nicolas Bro.

Screenplay by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis.

Directed by Steven Spielberg.

Distributed by Touchstone Pictures.  146 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

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War Horse

Steven Spielberg's winter double-feature turned out to be a bit of a push for the legendary filmmaker - neither this film nor his animated Adventures of Tin Tin captured much audience attention when released within a week of each other back in December.  Now we are afforded the opportunity to re-evaluate as they both hit video shelves at about the same time. 

War Horse is Spielberg's live action rendition of a play that has been popular on London's West End and is just now making its Broadway debut.  It's a beautiful, charming film, full of the wonders of nature and the horrors of war - and at the same time it's also rather manipulative feeling.  In a strange way, with this film Spielberg is trying to portray World War I in much the same way that he portrayed World War II in Saving Private Ryan, but this time around the Private is a horse.

Actually, though, at heart, War Horse is a love story between a boy and his horse.

A teenage boy (Jeremy Irvine), who lives in a run down old farm with his parents (Peter Mullan and Emily Watson) is surprised when on a whim, his father buys a wild horse built for racing to plow the fields. 

Joey the horse is skittish and trusts no one, but eventually the boy is able to break down his guard and teach the regal beast.  They work together to try to save the family's destitute farm.

However, when war breaks out, his father sells the horse to the army.  Thus begins a series of adventures for the sturdy equine, in which he is the horse of an honorable soldier, then becomes a prisoner of war, helps in a daring escape, spends time on a farm with a French girl and her grandfather, becomes a workhorse for the German army and finally through his braveness brokers an understanding between the differing sides of the war - if only for a short time.

It is beautifully filmed, touching stuff.  The screenplay, co-written by Four Weddings and a Funeral scribe Richard Curtis and Lee Hall, is smart and occasionally funny.

And yet, it all feels just a bit manipulative.

Not that good films can't be manipulative, but watching War Horse it often feels like the movie isn't quite as good as it could be - quite as good as it should be with all the talent involved. 

Still, even if it doesn't quite live up to expectations, there is much to respect about War Horse.  The acting is stellar, the direction is needless to say top-shelf and the cinematography is often stunning.

And the title horse is a majestic beast, a beautiful and natural screen presence.

So if War Horse is a very good movie rather than a great one, well, there are worse things you can say about a film, aren't there?

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2012 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 13, 2012.

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Copyright 2012 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 13, 2012.

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