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Sunday 29 January 2012

Warhorse Review

Spielberg once spoke about being disappointed with his own complacency as a director with the making of 'Hook', and promised to never work in that way again. Sadly, 'Warhorse' feels like a work full of complacency and predictability.

The film begins promisingly. You sense the Spielbergness of it all -- interesting characters young and old, the complexity of parent/child relations, epic cinematography, and the backdrop of war.

Unfortunately, those early resemblances stick; and don't take us anywhere new. Usually I'm on board with Spielberg's sentimentality and emotional manipulation -- It's good storytelling with a bit of heart. 'Warhorse' falls short in this manner. The scene where the German soldier and English soldier come together to help the horse get out of the barbed wire -- this is such a flagrant attempt at tugging the heart strings that I seriously doubt anyone could ever find it moving or touching. Spielberg is a crowd pleaser and makes movies for the whole family to watch; but even so, it seems too broad and simple in this movie, even by the standards of the lowest common denominator. 

The same can be said for John William's score. He is, undoubtedly, the greatest living film composer, but his work on 'Warhorse' is overly-familiar and predictable -- and the horse's theme reoccurs like clockwork whenever something emotional happens. It's obvious and panderous. 

What I am saying, I think; is that this feels like Spielberg at his laziest, creatively. The elements are there; but it falls short of truly grabbing you, of inspiring. Of course, we expect too much from Spielberg. We expect 'Jaws' and 'Saving Private Ryan' every time. That's not possible, which is obvious; but the problem with 'Warhorse' is that Spielberg doesn't take risks, he doesn't tread new ground. When he's at his best; regardless of genre, he brings something new to the table. As bizarre as this comment might sound -- 'Warhorse' felt like a re-make of some of his older films. It was Spielberg doing Spielberg. 


  1. I have to agree. I enjoyed War Horse only because it felt so familiar now that I think about it. The trailer made it look like a horrible film but curiosity got me into the theater.

    It felt familiar but very formulaic. I don't think it deserves the Best Picture nomination but that's another topic. The Academy seems to be rewarding Spielberg for having a film out this season.

    War Horse isn't his best.

  2. I rode the emotional wave all the way,and told my hubby I would just have to stop going to emotional animal movies. I couldn't even watch certain scenes, and couldn't even say when we first got out if id liked it, i was still so caught up emotionally. Surprisingly, the next day, I saw the trailer again and realized how much I'd loved it (except the barbed-wire scenes!) The horse was magnificant, the story line was harsh, but I feel as though it was done very well.

  3. I'm going to disagree. Not with the review. I get that it doesn't work for some. I actually enjoyed the cinematography and choice to shoot the film reminiscent of more classical style films. Yes, the movie pulls at heart strings, but not like soap opera melodrama tends to lay it on thick.

    I don't think that Spielberg was "lazy" in his directing. (Which is where I disagree) There a few scenes that come to mind which I really enjoyed and appreciated. The battle in No Man's Land, the German army mowing down the officers as they rode their horses into the woods, the horses dragging the military gun to name a few.

    But I agree, it's not his best, but by far his worst. And best picture? I'm not a fan of the new format, which is probably how it got the nomination.