It's been a while...a LONG while, actually, but I've decided to try and revive this ol' thing! I've seen a few movies since the last post, but nothing all that amazing or horrible. Today I saw War Horse. It was good.
Director- Steven Spielberg
Written by- Lee Hall and Richard Curtis; based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo
Top Billed Cast- Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullin, Emily Watson, & David Thewlis
This story is structured very much like the classic "Black Beauty" in that we start with the birth of a horse and follow that horse from home to home throughout the film. Horses in war are not allowed to choose sides; they can't decide to only fight the "bad guys" and it is no different for the hero in this story set during World War I. Though he has many names, and struggles through many challenges, this "war horse" keeps his wits about him and touches countless hearts in the process.
* This movie is pretty. I'm not sure if they filmed it all/most of it on location in France or if they used another country, whichever it was...it worked. There are countless shots in the film that are just brilliantly executed.
* Remus!! Ok, sort of. David Thewlis is in this movie but he's kind of a bad guy so while I like him enough to put him here based on performance in this movie, let's be honest it's really because I love "Harry Potter".
* As a dog trainer, and one that has worked on sets before (small ones...but still), I always give props to trainers that make it work. Whatever group was hired to supply the horses to play the two main horses in this movie, I give them MAJOR props. While, yes you do have to suspend disbelief a bit, and I'll touch more on this in the Cons, overall these animals did an incredible job. Horses can't bark, they can't whine, they can't really convey emotion with a tail wag or eyebrow twitch like a dog can, and yet, you feel like these horses could. They worked brilliantly together and gave the audience something to root for.
* Stunts. Honestly, running full out on a horse carrying a sword while side by side with other people running full out on horses carrying a sword...that's intense. Add in a few hundred more horses, hundreds of infantry men fleeing said horses, and a fully equipped camp and you have yourself a recipe for disaster. Disaster did NOT strike, though! I love watching battle scenes because it's such a great way to judge a movie. If you can see hesitation, see the actors waiting for a cue, you know it's probably not that great of a movie. A good battle scene is like a dance: calculated and coordinated to the minutest degree but flowy and beautiful and seemingly effortless. War Horse was like a Broadway dance number mixed with an Olympic ice skating final: it was superb.
* Either they had THE most realistic animated horse I've ever seen or the best trained stunt horse I've ever seen. Either way, there's one scene that is so painfully well done that I'm still trying to figure out how they did it. I won't spoil anything but I think you'll know it when you see it.
* I realize that it's a period piece and that it's set in England where people have varying degrees of accents and what not. I also realize that this movie was made by ACTORS, people trained to do different accents while enunciating. Apparently, if you do a period piece, set in England, that stars a horse...you are no longer required to speak clearly.
* This movie is about a war. Wars, typically, have two sides and those two sides, typically, are pretty easy to identify based on outfits and language and what not. I got lost in this movie. Yeah, it's a family film so everybody needs to speak English but...if we're all speaking the same language with, sometimes, the same accent, can we at least have totally different colored uniforms? Hats? Something? At the start, it was REALLY easy to tell and I appreciated that immensely. Perhaps it was Spielberg's intention to make it harder and harder to tell the difference as the story progressed, I don't know. I personally did not enjoy not knowing who to cheer for.
* Resolution. I won't go too in depth here for fear of spoiling but there's a few things left unsaid that I thought should have been. Nothing major but I had a few questions after it was over that I would love to know the answer to. Perhaps I should read the book?
* While I praised the cinematography in the Pros section...I can't say the same for the last few shots of the film. I'm sure they shot it in front of a green screen or just "touched" up the background after they shot it at one time of day with another time of day. Either way, the sunset...I suppose that's what it was...was just, ugly. It was either too bright or not bright enough, I can't be sure. I was not a fan.
* If you're doing a movie about animals and you're going to need more than one (which, they all need more than one), PLEASE do your homework! I get that you need one horse that stands, one that runs, one that limps, etc etc...but can you at least keep them all the same type? We went from Paso to Warmblood, to Thoroughbred, to who knows what else. Body type matters! Gait matters! Continuity matters!
* Most of the CGI was great..and for me to compliment CGI is a big deal. There was one bit though that I just can't get to stop replaying in my head. It's not that it was horrible or anything and the transition back to live-action was almost seamless. It's just that..horses don't bend like that. Or if they do, they don't get up and run away from it.
This movie is rated PG-13 and can be hard to watch at times. There are lots of scenes involving dead horses and dead soldiers. Be prepared to discuss World War I and the people of the day's views on animals as more of a tool than a pet. I don't recall any cursing but there could have been a few mumbled words that I missed (see the Con regarding enunciation). Save for the violence and death, it really is a good family movie. Viewer beware..
Over all, I liked this movie. It might seem that I was a bit harsh on certain aspects of it but it is a film I would see again. Not too gory with a lot of heart. 3.5/5 stars.