War Horse Movie Review
Reviewed by Ian Forbes, SoberingConclusion
I apologize for being so blunt about it but with a runtime of 2 hours, 26 minutes that feels more like 2 weeks, 26 days, there’s no point in beating around the bush. After being adapted into a Tony Award winning play in 2007, from Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 novel of the same name, the adaptations needed to end there. And be forewarned there are a few spoilers ahead (skip to the end if you just want the final word).
Being that this is a Spielberg film, where the protagonist never dies, the story follows a horse from birth to … not-death (told you there would be spoilers). We start with a horse auction where a drunk farmer outbids his landlord to secure the horse and then follow WWI via the road traveled by the horse; first as the beloved friend of the drunk farmer’s son – a teenage boy on the cusp of adulthood, then as the mount for a captain in the British army, then as the pet of a French girl, then as an overly-taxed work horse for the German army, and finally after all this, the film comes full circle to a horse auction to determine the final owner of the horse. That sentence was long and very drawn out … just like the movie.
What is probably a very rich book, full of heartwarming stories, ends up a tedious succession of people marveling at the quality of this horse and more than few instances of this being the smartest equine prior to Mr. Ed. Sadly, there are no talking animals and I really do mean that, sarcasm has been turned off for the rest of this paragraph. The opening section plays out like some stripped down version of Babe, complete with a wily goose on the drunk farmer’s property. Then there’s a bit of Saving Private Ryan lite, a section best reserved for friends of Flicka, back to Saving Private Ryan lite, one excellent scene involving the horse caught in barbed wire (and not because the horse is hurt, it’s the one truly excellent scene), then the horse auction, and then mercifully, the end credits – though not until Spielberg has thrown in one of the hammiest endings of 2011, if not this young century.
If you’re particularly fond of horses and have no trace of cynicism, War Horse may be what you’re looking for. Watching such a beautiful animal be abused and hurt, no matter the triumphs throughout, isn’t exactly my idea of good fun, but to each their own. Anyone with a particularly strong aversion to cruelty towards horses will find some scenes tough to watch but it’s also possible you won’t care, if you’re at all like me, because you’re so bored by that point that the idea of feeling emotion is alien. Of course, given Spielberg’s penchant for throwing aliens into films, even when they don’t need to be (*cough* Crystal Skull), it’s nice to see him not go to that well again.
Although I’m sure there will be plenty of people who find the story inspirational and moving, because it’s about a pretty horse overcoming all that’s put in its way, nothing in the film outside of that one particular scene alluded to earlier was noteworthy or memorable (as evidenced by my lack of mentioning who the actors were). Even the John Williams score was innocuous at best, intrusive at worst. Watching War Horse is the last thing I’d do on Christmas Day, unless I really need the sleep.
War Horse hits theaters on December 25, 2011 and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of war violence.