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Dreadful Dreck
blackmarketkaty28 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Did I watch the same film that the other reviewers here watched? Because I found nothing but obvious Oscar bait. It was as if someone wrote a list of every possible tear-jerking story cliché and checked off as many as they could fit within time and budget constraints. Horses? Check! War? Check! Plucky youngsters? Check and check! Plucky youngsters fighting to save the farm! Plucky youngsters fighting to keep the horse! Plucky youngsters who were previously enemies now getting along! Plucky youngsters severely wounded but staying plucky! I could go on. Really, I could. But all that's necessary to say is that almost everything you expect to happen does.

The cast is full of fantastic actors whose talent is disappointingly wasted in this film. I can't blame them, considering the schmaltzy script they had to work with ("It's a miracle horse!" - somebody actually says that. Actually, I think every character says that?). Emily Watson's brow furrows expertly. David Thewlis sneers as required. Peter Mullan stares remorsefully with perfection. Benedict Cumberbatch's mustache should win its own Oscar, and if an Oscar could be won simply for tearful lip quivering, Jeremy Irvine would win it for sure. I only wish I could have taken any of it seriously. Actually, I found myself caring more about the father's pennant than the horse.

Never have I seen such a display of dull writing, ham-fisted scripting, utterly scattered direction and overkill cinematography. It's no surprise they've evaded professional critics in screenings. I don't know who they've targeted everywhere else, but the audience at mine was largely seniors and veterans who all applauded it wildly. The younger audience members I saw did not seem to be so impressed. Some in my row were actually laughing quietly at all the wrong places. To be fair, perhaps this movie is really intended for a very specific demographic of which I'm not yet a member. Or perhaps, more likely, it was deliberately manipulative.
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Probably the most bored I have ever been in a cinema...
joel-richardson18 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
As a non-horse lover, I was sceptical about seeing War Horse, but the emphatically positive reviews won me over. I don't want to exaggerate, but the film was amongst the least interesting two hours I have ever spent. Many films are dull, but entertaining in patches; War Horse only rarely strays into 'watchable'

There is barely even the semblance of a plot for much of the film; the horse encounters various different groups of people, however none of them are given a chance to truly develop before they are killed off. Unsurprisingly the horse lasts through until the end of the film, so suspense is totally lost.

That would be fine, if the characters weren't so vacuous. Other than the soldiers with the wirecutters and the old man on the farm the horse is comfortably the most interesting character in the piece, and if I'm honest he didn't even excell as a horse. In particular Albie is one of the most one-dimensional characters in any film I've seen, and to make matters worse his one dimension is that he really really loves his horse. If he had been given even a trace of personality then I might have cared that he'd lost his horse.

I possibly come across as heartless, but if I'm honest I can't think of any moments in the film when I was even aware I was supposed to care. Someone near me in the cinema clearly had tears in her eyes at the end, but unless they were in despair at the eternally lost hours of her life I can't really understand why.

It's worth 2 stars rather than 1 because the cinematography is (at times) excellent, and the fifteen minute period where Joey runs wild and is then cut loose is very well done, if not especially original. If any other character in the film had the personality of those two soldiers then perhaps the film could have been saved.
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Oh no dear god why? Why?!?
Knights of Sodium14 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
When i was growing up in the lush hills of my native country of Sweden the name Steven Spielberg meant something. Hearing the name Spielberg made me and my countrymen remember Indy Jones, ET Jaws. And then he blow our collective little minds with his movie magic with films such as Jurassic park, and saving private Ryan. Jurassic had my kid brother literary climbing the walls of our local cinema in sheer youthful terror at the sight of the realistic evil little lizards.

For my part Ryan was and is still one huge pile of greatness. The name Spielberg was a surefire way of knowing that you were going to be on one heck of a thrill ride when seeing one of his movies.

I mean Indy shooting that sword guy or harassing that poor Chinese midget? Classic! But somewhere along the line Spielberg must have suffered a stroke that has been kept quit or been abducted and replaced with one of them surrogates from Bruce Willis bleak masterful prophetic movie with the same name.

Cause this can't possibly be the same person can it? Can it? And if it can, then help us god...

What can you say about war horse that hasn't already been covered? Its a 2.40h blazing poop wave of sap and ham fisted acting.

Right from the start where Lupin somehow is alive again (and a bit of tool) forces jovial and lovable drunk Irish farmer into waving a bidding war over a horse.

Or as the movie war horse subtly puts it, the most super awesome honey dipped pantspeeingly amazing horse ever EVER! The horse plows a field, runs by a car which is puttering along at the neckbreakingly speed of 5miles per hour, but did not stop a burning child from crying or end poverty or won the dance audtion or even saved the rec center. So it did nothing that would warrant its status as a godlike being.

But i digress, wasn't my meaning to give a blow by blow of this either magnificent poop-storm of a movie but i can't help myself cause it got me really upset dang it...

I rented this movie, and it promised me the feelgood movie of the year, "a magnificent and gripping epic tale of friendship bravery and love" "Spielberg has done it again he has!".

But i really just hated it.

The horse Joey was said to change the life of everyone he meet. And did he ever? Two stout German youths with outrageous accents (why the hell were the Germans doing speaking English? i mean come on...)get shoot.

Then this prissy lil girl who was so sweet n cute and cutesy that my teeth ached has some cutesy scenes where somehow Joey the horse has them fooled of his godlike status by doing absolutely nothing.

Its a kinda of a bad movie when you feel a smile coming on when you hear that this little girl will die horribly of some sorta disease. Really? will we get to watch? please please please?? But no.

And don't get me started on the whole thing at the end when the evil salami maker is going to buy Joey for 30 pounds and the cute girls grandfather comes out of nowhere and offers 100pounds for it..and is prepared to sell everything to buy joey back.

This whole scene with its heartfelt speech made me gag on my own bitter cynical hateful bile. 100pounds? Really? 100? When all you had to do was raise to 35-40 pounds tops? Why does it have to be such grand gestures? Why does Spielberg try so overly hard (and sloppy) to try n pluck at our collective heartstrings? Its insulting to say the least.

To summarize, i saw an episode of fear factory few weeks ago where the contestants had to drink blended rats. I really think that would have made a more entertaining evening then watching Spielbergs latests mouth fart of a movie.

And what the heck was with that music? Do we really have to have 80 violins squeaking every scene to cramp the seriousness or whimsy of each scene down our collective necks?
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I'm genuinely sorry I can't recommend or like this one
LilyDaleLady26 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
For the record, I'm a sappy horse lover, & I desperately wanted to like, nay love, this film but I have to give it two stars.

Based on a children's novel by Michael Morpurgo, I never heard of "War Horse" until the Broadway production. Magnificent life-size horse puppets were so eerily realistic and moving that THEY actually moved me to tears. This was before I had an inkling that Spielberg had optioned the story and was making a film of it.

Spielberg has pulled out every stop here -- the movie is shot on real film and looks it, lush and expensive. The battle scenes are detailed and exciting. There is a skillful cast of respected British actors. But it's entirely without real heart and soul.

Without the exciting puppetry (that undoubtedly drew Spielberg to the material as it did me), the only way to save this would have been some kind of thoughtful retelling of the material. And once you get past the swelling music, the golden sunsets and manipulated emotional level, frankly this feels empty. "The Black Stallion" -- from 1979 -- is a much more fantastical story, without historical precedent or realism, and yet I never watch it without sobbing like a baby, because it touches something deep and human and universal. "War Horse" simply does not. It feels like a calculated bid for an Oscar nomination.

Being released along with "TinTin" at the same Christmas slot, my impression was that the first big mistake Spielberg made was to go realistic with the story. The play worked because it is NOT realistic. Frankly, I think he should have used animation for the horse story -- made it more symbolic and expressionistic -- and filmed TinTin straight up as an "Indiana Jones"- type adventure.

I was also struck, from almost the start of the film, that Spielberg honestly knows (and cares) NOTHING about horses and that lack of genuine interest plagues the film. The first part of the film, set in an English village, has the Narracott family -- apparently the dumbest and most incompetent tenant farmers in British history -- who irrationally decide to buy a thoroughbred for plowing. Strangely, they seem not to have owned ANY horse prior to this. How did they plow the farm BEFORE Joey? Mr. Narracott spends 30 quid on Joey (I believe this would be about $150 US, as it was valued in 1914) -- that amount of money would have easily bought Joey AND some old plowhorse.

And why is Mr. Narracott about 60-65 years old, with a 14 year old son? People married young back then -- Albert is more the age of his grandchild. How on earth did the father think he'd run a good-sized farm, when he's handicapped? and has no plow horse? (Note: nobody apparently had ever heard of mules back then -- much cheaper than a thoroughbred!) Since he spends his life savings on Joey, Mr. Narracott now has NO RENT MONEY....why did he do this? He doesn't even like or WANT the horse! He has no use for such a horse! He's put his entire family in danger of going hungry and/or being evicted for a horse he dislikes. Then he gambles what's left of his future that this slightly built yearling can plow up a huge, rocky field.

Of course the horse does so, with considerable anguish and suffering -- in one day, because nobody remotely considered doing it a bit at a time. The Narracotts are so mentally challenged as a FAMILY, none of them consider FIRST going through the field and REMOVING the giant ROCKS, but prefer to make it as hard as possible for the horse. When they amazingly DO NOT KILL the horse with this abusive behavior, it then rains, washing away the entire crop (of turnips, no less). While all this happens, the village folk -- who have no work or farms of their own to run -- stand around IN THE RAIN watching! Literally, they have no more sense than to stand in the rain in their good clothes. Naturally, NOT ONE OF THEM -- all presumably village tenant farmers -- has a spare horse or mule, or even the decency to pitch in and help a CRIPPLED MAN and his 14 year old boy. Nice town. Glad I don't live there. Note: by 1914, if they had CARS, they had TRACTORS.

After this segment, there was nothing about the war scenes or Joey's unlikely survival against all odds, that moved me or made me feel anything for the characters. Jeremy Irvine, as Albert (the boy) is especially weak, and he doesn't look 14 (he also looks identical at 18, whereas we all know that boys change VERY rapidly in physique in those 4 years).

At the end, when Joey and Albert return from war....well, they apparently take a wrong turn and end up in WYOMING. Because suddenly there are western-like expanses of land, and big golden sunsets and vistas that go on forever. Frankly, it's not Devonshire, England.

Among the many subplots -- where Joey is handed along by one unbelievably kind and decent person to another, literally the nicest warring folks in history -- one set in a French farmhouse, with the world's most annoying kid with the world's lamest fake French accent, is a real low point. Later, we hear the little girl has died -- old movie disease, since she looks healthy as, well, a horse -- we just feel relief we don't have to hear her fake French accent again (I was afraid she'd resurface somewhat older, as a romantic partner for Albert).

Sorry, I can't buy one frame of this film. A big disappointment. If you do get a chance to view some of the puppetry from the theatrical play, don't miss it -- THAT is magnificent. But the film, just third rate.
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Brown Beauty
Dharmendra Singh23 January 2012
Spielberg's film is his vision of Michael Morpurgo's beloved book, which must surely now be essential reading for all kids, if it wasn't before.

Superficially it's about a horse named Joey and a boy called Albert, who become inseparable through a series of unfortunate events – World War I being one of them. A closer look reveals a story of such overwhelming humanity that I was bowled over. Spielberg was the only director for this film because he knows what it means to be a child.

Whether or not it is apparent in the book, there's no doubt this is a war film, one that ranks with Spielberg's 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Schindler's List'. Emily Watson's character utters a line about the refusal of being proud of killing, which is the line one might use to summarise the film's point. Because Spielberg is Jewish, this line is pregnant with meaning. It's his noble way of saying that, despite the suffering received by his kin, he is willing to forgive their oppressors.

There's a scene where Joey is trapped by barbed-wire in no man's land and is freed by the combined effort of an Englishman and a German, who put aside their differences under the name of human decency. The scene is breathtaking, and it's the sort which no-one does better than Spielberg.

Long-time collaborator John Williams provides a moving score, regardless of its resemblance to the one he composed for 'Saving Private Ryan'. Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski reminds us of the beauty of our rural regions by photographing the Devonshire countryside with reverence.

Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Niels Arestrup and Tom Hiddleston form the principal cast and are wonderful. Nothing could have prepared me for how much I'd be moved. There's no reason why you won't be.

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With War Horse the usual bloodbath and gory murder scenes are ditched in favour of a genuine story that manages to provoke passion and deep emotion in the audience
The Upcoming21 December 2011
When it was announced that Steven Spielberg was directing a film adaptation of War Horse, fans across the UK were a little apprehensive.

After all, the stage play and book were massive hits, so the film would have a lot to live up to. Early reviews are now saying that this film will be in the running for major Academy Awards — a statement that seems accurate after watching the film.

Based on the book by Michael Morpurgo, War Horsedepicts the story of Albert Narracott, played by Jeremy Irvine, and his treasured horse Joey in Britain where World War I is about to begin. Joey is sold to the cavalry by Albert's alcoholic father and finds himself trapped in the devastating fields of war while Albert is trying to find him.

Spielberg finds a balance between heartfelt emotion, especially from seeing the war through Joey's eyes and the people he meets along the way, and the tragic problems the main characters face, for example the separation between Joey and Albert after we have watched them bond and connect in the first part of the film. It is those emotional contrasts that Spielberg translates onto the screen well, perhaps the best one being the contrast between the overall setting of the devastation and trauma of World War I and the love between the main character and his horse portrayed throughout the film.

Although some of the cast are newcomers to cinema, they put on a stellar performance. Jeremy Irvine perfectly portrays on screen the character's determination and devotion to find his horse. Practically unknown before this film, his performance in War Horse has now made him one to watch. The rest of the cast include Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, Tom Hiddleston, and Niels Arestrup.

War Horse is the perfect film to settle down with the family for Christmas. It is a touching, beautiful depiction of the relationship between a boy and his horse, and of life in the countryside during World War I. The usual bloodbath and gory murder scenes are ditched in favour of a genuine story that manages to provoke passion and deep emotion in the audience, and overall this fits into the beauty of the narrative.

Check more reviews from The Upcoming on http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/?cat=9
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A Very Pretty Movie
M. J Arocena26 December 2011
John Williams score - wall to wall - reminds us this is a Steven Spielberg film. The Spielberg from "Always" not the Spielberg from "Munich" To say the film is a sentimental boy and horse tale kinds of says it all but, to be honest, not quite all. The battle scenes, WWI this time, are from the same man (men) who gave us those glorious first 45 minutes of "Saving Private Ryan" The display of means is staggering. "Paths Of Glory" and "Pride Of The Marines" came to mind. Our hero, played by Jeremy Irvine, reminded me of young heroes in Disney movies, Tommy Kirk for instance. He's pretty and harmless. But the horse, well the horse is a whole other story. Brilliant performance. I think the Academy should be seriously considering an animal category. This year alone we had this remarkable horse, plus the amazing dogs in "Beginners" an "The Artist" I know, I'm rambling, well so did "War Horse" but in a much prettier way of course.
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Simply Delightful !
zenjunkie19 January 2012
I went to see this movie expecting NOT to like it. But, for 2 hours and 15 mins I was totally enthralled. I don't understand the reviews that have disliked this wonderful movie. If you want a cinematic experience this will tick the boxes. This is simply a great story - well told. Its also visually stunning. There's no stupid CGI. There's no gratuitous violence - the violent moments are tastefully choreographed and at times heartbreakingly realistic - without going for sensationalism. I'll not tell you the story or give any spoilers. Except to say this. Girls - bring hankies! Guys - don't be put off by the hankies - there's plenty of good action and the story is brilliant anyway. If you want a normal brainless CGI blockbuster - look elsewhere. If you want a class GREAT MOVIE GO AND SEE WARHORSE - you will not regret it.
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"Lassie" meets "Saving Private Ryan"
pmvanlandingham29 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
"Lassie" meets "Saving Private Ryan". This movie is Sappy and Predictable, a complete disappointment. It has good visuals and big dramatic music and that's about it. The Critics of Hollywood must owe these guys Money or something, for giving it such good reviews. The Human lead is a sniffling twerp whose background is not developed. The Father is an angry Irish Drunk who's actually a tortured Hero Character, whose story is not developed. The Mother is a Loving all Forgiving Character. The other people are one stereotypical, poorly developed character after another. You can see everything coming.It's Two Whole Hours of my Life I'll never get back. The Story and Characters are too simple and superficial to keep an adults interest but, the War Violence and Exaggerated Animal Cruelty is a Bit much for Kids.
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A Stunning and Enthralling Epic
Grey Gardens25 December 2011
Steven Spielberg has assembled many fantastic movies, like Schindler's List, Jaws, E.T, Saving Private Ryan, etc. His new creation, War Horse is a stunning achievement. The film was professionally made, it looked amazing, sounded great. Legendary composer, John Williams crafted an amazing and beautiful score. It was one of the best, I've heard in years.

Jeremy Irvine delivers a very heartfelt and convincing performance, he's just great. The rest of the cast, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, etc were all great, as well. However the star of the film, The Horse was simply amazing, the facial expressions were all spot on. Its just great, how you see the movie, from a horse perspective. Steven Spielberg deserves a lot of praise for that, and I hoper he gets it.

The cinematography is as good as it gets, its simply astounding. The film's cinematographer, Janusz Kamiński deserves all the praise he gets, an Oscar surely awaits him. The movie deserves all the technical praise, it gets. The editing is well done, the art direction is spectacular, the look of the film is quite breathtaking, at times.

The film is uncompromisingly sentimental, and I wasn't annoyed by it. Because it worked so well, it made me care about the story, the characters, the horses. A good old fashion studio epic, I miss them and I'm happy Spielberg delivered one. There are a lot of powerful scenes in the movie, from which I cried. It was just so moving, it showed the true consequences of war. Some of the battle sequences were simply fantastic and astonishing.

I am happy to see, Steven Spielberg in his top form. He showed, that he's still one of the best in the business and I hope to see more of him in the future. It may not be his best film, but it certainly a wonderful film to watch. I'd recommend anyone to see the film, it will appeal to everyone.
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www.ramascreen.com21 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Beautifully shot, yes! Wonderful story, absolutely! Plus it's a war movie that you can take your family to, but,.. WAR HORSE is underwhelming, it gets lost in trying too hard to be a tearjerker so much so that I hardly feel its emotional power. You can definitely label WAR HORSE as the feel-good movie of the year, but it's nothing short of formulaic… I'm a die hard fan of John Williams, what a brilliant composer! And his music for this film is probably the biggest reason why I was looking forward to WAR HORSE and it doesn't disappoint. His new music is as memorable as his previous scores in the past. The film however just doesn't work for me, even with the gorgeous cinematography by Janusz Kaminski. The fact that it's made by Spielberg, certainly would still attract audiences, but just don't expect it to be like Saving Private Ryan or Empire Of The Sun, because WAR HORSE is not on that same level. I do admire whatever method the production applied to train the horse for this film, and I'm sure they used more than just one horse for the character Joey. There are certain scenes that might make animal lovers everywhere cringe because of what those scenes required the horse to seemingly do. In the story, the horse Joey encounters several human characters, besides Albert, through its unexpected journey and sadly the film doesn't allow us enough chance to get to deeply know those human characters There is a point where Joey is so crushed by excruciating grief that he starts to run like the wind and it even doesn't care which way it's going, it doesn't care about living and dying either, and that tells you the film's intention all along, to make Joey have some kind of human-like personality, this happens when you deal with movies that have animals as their lead stars, which goes back to formulaic. So that aspect would resonate with audiences who love films like Babe. I just feel the film doesn't challenge itself and it leaves me with an indifferent afterthought. WAR HORSE has its funny and heartfelt moments, the themes are empowering and liberating, they exude strength and loyalty, there is no denying, in addition to a very hopeful ending but it plays it safe and it's not one of my favorite Spielberg films.
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Terrible Tripe
Crazyfilm Reviewer23 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Wow where do i start with this garbage.

The only things missing here in this film was if the horse went on to win a Nobel Prize for Peace, won a couple of Grand Nationals at Aintree then emigrated to the states to fight crime by taking on Chicago mobsters.

How this film got nominated for 6 Oscars really says a lot about the selection process these days. This film is terrible. If they cut back a few of the war scenes then it could have been marketed for young teenage girls.

Watched the film all the way through hoping it could turn its self around somehow. The part where Joey ( Warhorse ) saves the black horse from pulling artillery up a hill was the final straw for me.

In summary - This film is stupid and you must be sort of mentally challenged in the head to even think this is any good.
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Unbelievable. Literally.
Stefan Boublil11 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
before i get going, and so that you may not be lead to believe that i am on an anti-Spielberg crusade, let me clear something up first:

i'm the guy who loved Hook!

okay? are we straight now? alright, let's go then...

at one point, every director must ask him or herself the seminal question: who cares? and, invariably, the answer must at least be: i do! that is a process seemingly absent from Mr. Spielberg's oeuvre as a director of late, not even to mention his work as a producer (terra nova anyone?) the trouble is that, for my money and ever since The Lost World: Jurassic Park, each and every one of the ordinary people he loves so much has been underdeveloped prototypes that count on our now-standardized assumptions to appear challenged by the extraordinary circumstances they find themselves in. it is incompetent at best and lazy at anticipated. worst, though, goes to careless, the state he now seems to have devolved to, spoiling a career built on thoughtful consideration of his self, now outsourced to our expectations of what a "Spielberg movie" is supposed to be.

from The Sugarland Express to e.t. by way of Close Encounters, it was always evident to me that he took his supposed fun quite seriously. fully-fleshed characters were all there, painstakingly and brilliantly introduced for lasting flavor; their motivations were human and real so that we may allow ourselves to cheer them on without shame or reservation and their meaningfulness was made obvious by the audiences' tears which, in the words of Pauline Kael, were "tokens of gratitude for the spell the picture had put on (them.)"

warhorse, for me, missed every single one of those opportunities...

first of all, let me say this for the record: fade ins and outs are for people who don't know how to finish a scene. and for a director of this stature, in the first minutes of a grand epic, to use them not even to mark the passage of time, but to actually transition from daily moment to daily moment, while still in the expository section as we discover who we are dealing with, is of the weakest lack of confidence this side of The Terminal. in fact, the whole first act of this here slice of a lifetime movie could easily, but for the sweeping harmonies of Mr. John Williams' violins, pass for the director's cut of an over-ambitious Irish spring commercial. let us enumerate the people we meet in the first 15 minutes of this farce:

  • the handsome young teen who falls in love with a horse. - the drunk father with a mysterious, but brave, past. - the dutiful wife whose quiet dignity passes for depth. - the mutton-chopped evil landlord threatening to evict.

to call these characters cliché would do them honor. they are but prototypical cardboard cutouts whom able screenwriter Richard Curtis must have been forced to write to defuse a time bomb strapped to his pet turtle, for he was apparently convinced to assume that the audience would be so familiar with these templates that we would happily fill the gaping void left by their lack of motivation or character with what we could remember from Babe. after seeing such carelessness in this and Tintin in the same week, is it possible to conclude that the beard has lost his eye for casting, his ear for dialog and instinct for story?

as we journey from English to french to German owners of what we are told is "a fabulous beast," we are, once again, confronted by an American director who does not dare subtitle his foreigners, which is really sad. especially in this movie, in which each dialect lasts for less than 30 minutes, it would have added a sorely needed touch of realism to an otherwise already over-sweetened tale. may it be too forward to say that if you missed the too-subtle "grand-pere" or "schnell!" you might think all these people are English? not only that but from hot teen English boy to fragile little french girl to portly and sweet German underling, everyone who loves the horse is a raging stereotype of cute and cuddliness. it is also quasi-insulting that a bottle of medicine is all Spielberg seems to need these days to make us care for a little girl whose skeleton, we are told none too subtly, might collapse any second now. here, we are treated to a simple binary system: people who shoot horses: bad. people who love horses: good.

but, you'll say, you're missing the point, this is not about them at all, this is about the horse! ah yes, the horse. does anyone care about horses this much that they are willing to take on faith that this one was so extraordinary as to inspire so many sacrifices from all who met it?! all this horse does is run, for 2 hours save for some human fighting in the 3rd act. which i wouldn't have had a problem with but for the fact that he runs for no reason! he is not trying to save anyone, bring a satchel full of secrets from one side to another or even find his original owner, all of which might have been good enough reasons to cheer him on. here, he runs for nothing!

and let's talk about the only non-horse sequence of the film. it seems to only be there to break up the sentimentality with a "see-what-i-can-do-with-war?" moment from a director who has long-lost his conviction. are we supposed to believe that in the blue glow of early morning in a war during which 100s of 1000s of people were lost, soldiers regain their basic humanity thanks to one animal caught in barbed wire?!

i'm upset because this is not adult filmmaking. this is simply doing something because one can.
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Horses fought too.
PWNYCNY17 January 2012
I was expecting this movie to be just another extravagant sentimental potboiler. Wow, was I surprised. This is a great movie. The title says the movie is about a horse, but it's really about a lot more than that. The horse plays a central role but the humans figure in the story too, in a big way. The cinematography is outstanding; it really conveys the bleak, gory nature of war. The movie alludes to the Battle of the Somme which is one of the costliest battles in history in terms of the sheer number of lives lost. At times the movie does lapse into sentimentality but in general the story proceeds at a fast pace (pun intended). The performances of the horses in this movie are impressive. They are stars in their own right. If the movie accomplishes nothing else, it shows that war is hard on animals too, and like the humans, they are victims too; there was never a horse that wanted to go to war. That any horses survived at all in the war is amazing. Anyway, this movie is well worth watching.
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Very well made. A modern film reminiscent of the classics.
theindustry10 January 2012
It is well understood from the first few scenes that the typical cliché of both war films and animal dramas will stain Spielberg's canvas, yet the film pushes forward, earning well-deserved praise. Quite a few scenes are captivating to say the least; as is the scene with the horse, Joey, forging through heavily barb-wired no man's land.

'War Horse' surely reminisces the older WW1 films, and epic war films in general, such as Lawrence of Arabia, that drag on forever, yet do not fail to keep you enthralled with their stunning visuals and top-notch acting. Jeremy Irvine's performance was acceptable for an actor fairly new to the game, as were the performances of the gamut of child actors in the film, but honorable mentions must go to Emily Watson, Niels Arestrup, and Peter Mullan. The production did a wonderful job to give the horse Joey a deeper personified image, as if he were an actor. The same goes for the other horses in the film, who seem to converse amongst each other and reveal a chemistry shared between animal and animal, as well as animal and man. A wonderful job on the whole. Certainly Spielberg's finest work in recent months (yes, I don't think cowboys and aliens should ever mix).

For what its worth, this picture will move you deeply, as it has done to many. 'War Horse' inspires anti-war sentiments, as Joey's endeavors help him sympathize with men on both sides of the trenches, and ultimately reminds us of the beauty of Earths beasts. Each one has its own character that strikes a chord with the audience, and this is undeniable.

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A Recipe For Weeping
Cinnyaste10 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Let's play "Plug In The Emotion" by adding all the requisite elements for creating a good weep. Save the sincerity but add a lot of manipulation. There you have it, "War Horse."

Mr. Spielberg is well known for crafting highly manipulative entertainment. As Mr. S. has shown, the right amount of emotion in an action/adventure film creates a richer, more rewarding experience. Too much violates the aesthetic - the case in spades in this mawkish exercise. And most likely the reason "War Horse" has barely made back its sixty-six million dollar investment in two weeks of release.

And then there's the marketing bullet point about shooting on film. Really? Good old film making. With Film? C'mon.

When asked a few years ago about continuing to make films, Tarantino said, "I don't want to make old man movies."

Mr. Spielberg is in his dotage and becoming less and less relevant as a filmmaker. The salad days are over, Mr. S. Thanks for all the fun in the dark, but you're no longer in touch with contemporary audiences. This applies to "TinTin" (from the Thirties!) as well.

Whether to pass on "War Horse" or not depends upon your tolerance to having your heartstrings plucked through manipulation, not by an inherently moving story.
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A Fantastic War Movie that Will Appeal to All Audiences
Al_Scarface_Capone5 November 2011
I was lucky enough to see War Horse in a special pre-screening last week, and I can safely say I will be seeing it again when its released on Christmas day. I went in with relatively low expectations, after watching the series of mediocre trailers, and walked out being able to safely say that War Horse is one of the best movies of the year, one of Steven Spielberg's best films, and, quite possibly, one of the best war films ever made, up there with my personal favorites The Thin Red Line, Apocalypse Now and Paths of Glory.

Steven Spielberg had long said that he didn't want to make Saving Private Ryan again. He said he wanted War Horse to be a war movie that parents cant take their children to and teach them something about love and war, and in this respect I can say that he more than succeeded. Spielberg comes close to the clinical perfection of Private Ryan, but more importantly, from an emotional perspective, War Horse far exceeds Private Ryan. There are many people apt to cry at Private Ryan, but War Horse is more likely to cause tears at a similar level to, say, Schindler's List. More importantly, unlike either Schindler or Private Ryan, War Horse is unlikely to cause any sort of political or moral complaints. He never tempers the anti-war message with nationalist tripe. Rather, he plays war straight. War is evil, men are good. There are no sides in this movie. In fact, at various points throughout the film, he seems to directly reject Saving Private 's heroism is dying for country message.

War Horse is based on the children's book and play of the same name. It is about a boy who's father, on a whim, buys a horse for his son that he knows will never be what is needed for the farm work it is purchased for. The boy forms an incredible bond with the horse. The first forty five minutes of the film is spent establishing the relationship between boy and horse. This part of the film is rather slow, but is necessary to establishing the film's central relationships, and is quickly made up for by the shift in pace as soon as the war begins. From the Scottish country side, after this important turning point in world history, War Horse shifts to France, where the titular horse is serving after being sold to the army. The boy is a year or two too young to follow his horse to Europe at this point, so for the next section, the film follows the horse only. From here on out, I will leave the plot a mystery, but it is gripping, thrilling, and very emotional.

There are two scenes in War Horse that I think are worthy of further mention. The first is a charge across no man's land. For anyone not familiar with the bulk of World War I's combat, it consisted of months at a time of back and forth shooting between trenches, broken up by awful charges across no man's land, to take a few hundred yards of enemy territory. These charges, as short as they were, as a result of the machine gun, came with death tolls in the thousands or higher. War Horse contains one of these charges, and it is carried out with both taste, and near perfect artistry. It is just grisly enough to get the reality across, but not so grisly that it makes the movie impossible to show to younger audiences. In fact, this trench charge ranks up with Steven Spielberg's other famous World War battle scene, the beach landing in Saving Private Ryan. It doesn't quite make it, but it comes close.

The other scene worthy of mention also occurs in the trenches, and reflects the other side of War Horse. The titular horse gets caught in the barbed wire in No Man's Land. The soldiers on either side spot it. No one knows what to do, as it is clear that its in incredible pain, but they know that leaving their respective trench would expose them to machine gun fire. Eventually two soldiers, one British, the other German both move to free the horse. The soldiers on both sides know what is going on, so no one fires a shot. This scene is unbelievably touching. The discussion they have (the German soldier happens to speak good English, explained adequately through a joke) will move even the most cynical of viewers, and gives a good idea of just what perspective War Horse takes to the act of war.

There are a few small problems in War Horse that, in most films, I would take issue with, but I will forgive in this case as I feel that they are so necessary for this film to appeal to younger audiences. The German soldiers speak English to one another, a big pet peeve for me. I would have preferred for French characters to speak subtitled French and German characters to speak subtitled Germans, but I recognize that many younger viewers refuse to read subtitles. There are a few unnecessary jokes, but again, younger viewers will enjoy these. Spielberg, as always, has three different endings tacked onto the movie, in this case necessary to provide the cut and dry resolution younger viewers require. As I said, these are still problems, but they are, for better or worse, required to accomplish what Spielberg was trying to.

I can say with absolute certainty that when Christmas rolls around, I will be dragging all my younger relatives to a screening of War Horse. I have never seen a movie so able to pull its punches enough to get a PG- 13 rating, but show enough to explain just what it is about war that makes it such an odious, disgusting, awful affair. In short, see War Horse as soon as you possibly can.
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Phil Shackleton21 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The summary really does sum this film up. Some good acting from the lead actor, and one good scene in no-mans-land when 'joey' gets caught up in all that barbed wire (really a miracle they did that scene without killing a horse).

Other than that it was like sitting and eating a 2lb bag of Tate and Lyle, very disappointed.

And to those people saying this is his best film are either mad or have never seen;

Saving Private Ryan, Jaws, ET, Catch Me If You Can, Munich,

The list goes on.

No where near one of his best. Very disappointed.

A 1/10 is on reflection a bit harsh, but I doubt I will watch a worse film in 2012.
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My Lovely Horse
freemantle_uk25 January 2012
World War II has been put to film a number of times in many different countries, but there are not nearly enough World War I films. Steven Spielberg set out to redress the balance giving us War Horse, an adaptation of a children's book and the play of the same name.

Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) is a young man living in Dartmoor in 1914. His father (Peter Mullan) buys a thoroughbred horse when he should have plough because of his rift with his landlord (David Thewlis). Albert is able to break in the horse who he names Joey and he shows to be a very special horse, strong, determined, loyal and intelligence. But when World War I breaks out, Joey is sold to a British office, Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston) and during the course of the conflict the horse see all aspects, from a Calvary horse, in rural civilian life for a French girl suffering Hollywood's disease (i.e. they say she is dying but seems perfectly healthy), as a German work horse and in no man's land.

Spielberg has a good track record making historical films with Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan and Empire of the Sun. War Horse is a solid film rather then being a great film. It is a film that is rich in period detail, showing the brutal nature of World War I, from the effects of chemical warfare and you feel the muddy, dirty environment as horses pull a giant artillery battery up a hill and Spielberg knows how to make a mundane scene of a horse ploughing a field exciting and emotional (it must be the most boring village in the world for watching a horse ploughing to be considered entertainment). But at the same time there are also some problems, particularly Spielberg's reliance on cutesy humour, from a goose who chases people to a scene in the trenches. I would not be surprise if Richard Curtis was partially responsible. The film is too long and many scenes could have been shorten or cut, particularly in the beginning. I think the relationship and love between Albert and Joey could have easily have been done in half the time.

It was a great idea of using a horse to show the horrors of war and the different perspectives of war. It is a great opportunity to show that they are good guys and bad guys on both sides of the war. There is some success in that in the German army privates are show to be decent caring people to the horse, but the officer core and sergeants were very harsh and cruel. Compare it to the British officers who are noble, if a little arrogant or cocky, but there are hints in one of the officers that behind his eagerness that in reality he was scared of the prospect of going to war for the first time. I would have wanted to see more of a mixed picture within all sides of the war and try to give more depth to the characters.

There is a great cast in War Horse, we have emerging talent like Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch who in their small roles show they are going to be big actors (well more so), new talent like Irvine who was excellent, playing his character like Sam and Frodo from Lord of the Rings and Celine Buckens where the humour works best. Emily Watson was also brilliant as Albert's mother and it great to see in a big film. And of course Joey the horse shows a lot of promise as an animal performer.

John Williams also supplies Mr. Spielberg with another great score, fitting for the film and Janusz Kaminski continues with great camera work, from the bright work of Devon in the summer to more grey and dull view of the front line of the war.

War Horse is a solid piece of filmmaking. It is typical Oscar bait but it still works as a film and Spielberg is able to make us care for Joey.

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Mediocre and mostly improbable horse tale
fred-houpt2 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I quite enjoy most of Spielberg's films. From the trailers I had moderate expectations that he would deliver good entertainment value, which is why we go to the cinema in the first place. I am not familiar with the novel that this film is based on and know nothing of the play version. I know a few facts about WW1. The operative word that kept going through my mind in the film was "improbable". It is a given that at some point in most films you are requested to surrender your belief that the images are realistic representations of some story. In this case WW1 is a fairly well known event so if you place your drama in the midst of it you had better get it right.

The drama begins in Devon just before the war, where an impoverished and semi drunken farmer bids an enormous amount of money for a horse that would be put to use behind a plow. While most level headed men would have purchased a stocky draft animal that was well suited to hauling a plow over rough terrain, this farmer inexplicably buys a horse far beyond his purse and his choice is a thoroughbred, unbroken racing horse. His young son has had eyes on this horse for several years, don't you know and throws his body into saving the horse from his fathers wrath. Eventually his father has to sell the horse to pay for the rent on the farm. The horse is bought up by the British Army and is shipped off to France and Belgium to help in the war effort. The young lad is too young to go fight in the war just yet but don't you know that he'll be there just as soon as he possibly can. And in the back of his mind he is hoping against all odds to find his horse. And at the end of the film, again against the highest of all odds he finds his horse. A more impossibly silly story in Spielberg's output is rarely found. The horse is taken over by several different people who for short periods of time take care of it. In the midst of the carnage of a full scale front line bombardment it survives being entwined in layers of barbed wire, while a plucky and perhaps insane British soldier decides to wander out under cover of a white flag to try and relieve the horse of it's sufferings. Don't you know that the horse is down closer to the German lines and a brave and perhaps equally foolish German soldier wanders out to watch what the British soldier is going to do with the horse. At this point, I'd have to say that it's all down hill and into a Disney-like wrap up.

The battle scenes are very loud (I had to plug my ears) but there is very little gratuitous blood and gore, that lots of his films are rich with. No head exploding, blood flying everywhere like in Saving Private Ryan. This seems to have been toned down for a younger audience appeal, maybe? The problems with the film are obvious. The first 2/3's of the film are slow, ponderous, quiet, overly dramatic but without any direction to a climax. The war is depicted for what it was, horrific and led by supremely inept leadership on both sides. This is really a side bar, because this is a horse movie. That we watch British Cavalry ride off with sabres flashing, as if they were fighting Napoleon, only to be mowed down in a slaughtering hail of bullets from machine guns, is really the only major display of insanity that the witless leadership brought down on themselves. That they fought trench war fare and were killed or maimed by gas is given just a passing glance. The war in this film is a distraction and at the point where it looms large on the screen you've forgotten exactly where this film was supposed to be going. Oh yes, the horse.

A quick glance at Wikipedia tells me that at least 480,000 horses died on the British side alone. That this film wants us to zoom in on the travails of just one of them in the midst of maybe a million others, is far fetched and a stretch too far. Would we be as swept up in the glorious drama (these are words used by other reviewers) if some heart broken bloke had his dog overseas and in the trenches and somehow he finds it in the middle of hell? It is preposterous. This part of the film reminds me of two other occasions where a major Hollywood film puts men at risk of the trenches with someone trying to keep a sharp eye open for a close friend or relative, the premise being that they've given a promise to someone back home that they'd bring them back alive. It was covered in "Legends of the fall" where the brother dies and it is covered in "Passchendaele" where the main lead gets himself killed. Those were more believable front line stories than War Horse.

I found the dialogue unmoving, the visual images overly beautiful, the plot predictable in the midst of a muddy sea of improbabilities. And for God's sake, Spielberg has the German soldiers speaking English but as they are led away in a march, the officer leading them away counts off in German. Give me a break. Consistency be damned. The music was predictable John Williams fare. All in all I was let down and found the first 2/3's of the film tedious and too slow. I would hardly use the words "stunning", "enthralling", or "exceptional". Surprising let down from a real master.
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Worst cinematography since I remember
Sunithaya2 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I guess the producers of this awfully corny movie chose their demographic very carefully. They knew it would not pass mustard ( or popcorn) with any film savvy audience. No disrespect to those who said it was the most wonderful movie they had ever seen. I went with my wife and 13 year old daughter. They both asked me if we could leave, I promptly obliged, something I don't remember ever doing. I am the type that can see 3 films in a row. I also teach film, so I will be using Mr. Spielberg's movie as a case study in what not to do. I honestly don't remember seeing worst cinematography since the early 40's Mexican exploitation films (that always featured horses!) . Double and triple shadows on exterior shots? Does this story happens in another planet with multiple suns and I totally missed that? Beautiful overcast skies which could have been used to light the scenes with soft light, instead actors in the foreground (including the horse), lit with horrible harsh light in the most amateurish fashion. 3 point lighting in the interior of barns? Light coming from opposite direction from where the source is supposed to be? Mr. Kaminski has certainly done a much better job in other films, including Spielberg's. So what happened here? The buck stops with the director, specially in a production that has been shot digitally with instant access to the shots. Was he absent? Worried about meeting distribution deadlines instead of storytelling. This movie is unacceptable by any modern standard, but the Hollywood machinery will try to sell any sap to an unsuspecting audience. I won't say much about the acting. Fairly decent actors that could have done a decent job in any well directed film reduced to grimacing masks and theatrical silent movie antics. It's a shame. This movie signals to me the end of Spielberg as a credible director, I now suspect he only lent his name for the excellent production of Tin Tin by Peter Jackson who has demonstrated consistently that he has the talent and the craft. this movie is not worth the popcorn, let alone a "Golden Globe", are you kidding?
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Stunning film, a visual feast
barbara-36425 January 2012
This film is a treat to watch. I was keen to see it, but had reservations about watching scenes from world war one. I had no need to worry. The whole thing was beautifully handled and even the filming of the trenches and the front were carefully composed and lit. Joey the horse is the lead actor. And what an actor! What a handsome horse! He certainly stole the film. Some scenes stay with me. The race with the car, the friendship with the black horse, the Geordie regiment bagpipe player in the trench, the German soldiers helping the worn out horses drag those great guns up the slope. Joey bolting through the barbed-wire fencing. A friend I was with remarked afterwards that Roses of Picardy had not been written in 1914 and that the record it was being played on was from about three decades later. These are really small details in what appeared to me to be a meticulously researched film. I hope it has a world wide audience. It deserves one.
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A truly exceptional film about courage in both man and beast
bamacharm29 December 2011
This is a wonderful "against all odds" inspirational story about courage and relationships. A horse of truly amazing spirit touches the lives of so many during War I - including British soldiers, German soldiers, French civilians and even other horses. I cannot recall any foul language throughout the film. The background and drama are epic. Steven Spielberg will take you through many emotions from humor, to sadness, to tears of joy. The scenery is gorgeous, the acting splendid, and the performances by the animals is simply remarkable. The cinematography has to be the best I've seen in a film. The last scene alone is a masterpiece.

Jeremy Irvine as "Albert" was particularly outstanding. I was also moved by the performance of French actor Niels Arestrup as the Grandfather and that of Celine Buckens who plays Emilie - his granddaughter. Of course, the War Horse -Joey- steals the show.

I cannot give a film any higher recommendation than I give this one. You will be moved to tears. Everyone in the family will enjoy it and you'll be pleased that you "participated" because you will be fully invested in this story emotionally.
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Truly Truly Awful
phil neumann14 January 2012
I am amazed that anybody could possibly like this. I did not fall asleep during the movie, but staying awake through the torturous 2 hours and 40 minutes was a challenge. Everyone I was with fell asleep and it seemed like half the theater did as well- in the end they got more value for their money than I did. All I can say is I am happy I paid for another film and popped into this one afterward. I am amazed that this is being considered for Oscars, and even more amazed that there are so many positive reviews.... I mean, it's Spielberg, so of course it is going to have pleasing cinematography as well as an array of his favorite actors, but every single development of the film is so incredibly played out- i mean everything: from the opening shots to the closing credits it is painful cliché after painful cliché with the same played out actors playing the same played out roles.

I'm sorry... I am so offended by this films warm reception that I can't even critique it properly... When I saw it I was sure that it had fallen flat on its ass and nobody would fall for it. It was like a Mad TV spoof of a Spielberg film. If you were thinking about watching War Horse, you might prefer drowning yourself.
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Just not British to shed a tear
Harryhammer217 January 2012
Here's the situation.... you have a large budget to make a big Hollywood production of a children's book that had been made into a successful West End production, it will be set during the years of 1914-1918 and it will be mainly targeted towards families.... oh and it's leading star will be a Horse. Probably only Steven Spileberg could come close to pulling this off and in my eyes and in the moist and damp eyes of my wife and daughter (aged 10) he has been successful.

It is a gloriously old fashioned romp of film with magnificent scenery and cinematography from the gods, from the vibrant fields and countryside of Devon to the Flanders fields and the mud and the destruction of the Somme.

The film centres around Joey the horse and the people he meets, he somehow in the madness of conflict allows them to find their humanity, this happened then and it still happens now, organisations such as NOWZAD aiding serviceman bringing home their four legged (normally Dogs) companions from their tour of duty.

I laughed and cried and cheered this magnificent beast, he is after all the star of the show (and the biggest star since Secretariat!), it pulls the heart strings unashamedly and maybe that is the problem with some of the critical reviews, just like Captain Nicholls and the other brave cavalry men, it's just not British to shed a tear! If you want to be cynical then yes you will probably want to pull this film apart but you know.... for once I did not want to see the graphic realities of war, I wanted to watch a film with my daughter that she could understand the horror's of that conflict without showing the exploited gore of some modern War films. After the film had finished and we had dried our eyes we went for a meal, the whole meal we were talking as a family about the film, and surely that is what it is all about.

Mr Spielberg has probably done more in 2.5 hours to educate children regarding the history of World War 1 than any history teacher could do, and he has done it with the aid of some of the truly great scenes in modern day cinema ...Oh and not forgetting a horse (or two!).
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