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Sunday, December 18, 2011

War Horse (2011)

At the outbreak of WWI, the horse of a young English lad (Jeremy Irvine) is conscripted by the Army. The lad vows that he will do whatever it takes to make sure the horse returns home safely. Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo and the acclaimed Tony winning play based on his novel by Nick Stafford, this is a middling effort by Steven Spielberg that was so rich in potential. At his best with such films as CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL or even WAR OF THE WORLDS, Spielberg can transport us to a whole other level. WAR HORSE isn't as bad as SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (what could be?) but its flaws are much too egregious to dismiss. As far as Spielberg's filmography goes, it's on a par with EMPIRE OF THE SUN. One is too cognizant of Spielberg's manipulation through out the film and sure, it works. I got all choked up at the film's final act too but I wouldn't have resented it so much if it weren't so calculated for just such an effect. And the manipulation doesn't just extend to the tears but the obvious humor which demeans some of the scenes. The horse itself (or rather the 8 horses used for the title role) is magnificent but the humans are a sorry lot. Emily Watson, Niels Arestrup and Tom Hiddleston (the F. Scott Fitzgerald of MIDNIGHT IN PARIS) all do what they can but the others flounder. Even John Williams fails to deliver the goods with his generic score. A major disappointment.

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