Film: War Horse
Direction: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Niels Arestrup
War Horse has bagged six nominations in the Oscar race. Unanimously critics have applauded the opus. As the film releases in India today, we bring you what Indian reviewers and their foreign counterparts have to say about this Steven Spielberg saga.
War Horse is a period film based in the World War I that tugs at the heartstrings as it tells the story of the bond between a boy and his horse.
Well, some may be all praises for the film and some may be slightly disappointed, there's no doubt that War Horse promises a roller coaster ride of emotions, after all, it made the Duchess of Cambridge weep!
Sanjukta Sharma, Live Mint
Without the technical wizardry of the director and his cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, War Horse would be a disaster. The story is sentimental, naive, and mediocre. Layers of soppiness are lathered on to a raging war involving nations. War is shown in its panoramic, tragic scale, discordant with the scope of the film—a thorough bred’s journey through war and the victims of war, and his climactic, miraculous union with his owner, Albert, a son of an English farmer.
At 146 minutes, War Horse is cinematic ambition without soul or mind. It can be tedious, if you don’t consider its digitally processed visual garnish a merit that can stand triumphantly on its own.
Allen O’ Brien, Times of India
Not to say, it's all about blood and gore in there. The orange sky amidst the lush green English countryside perfectly matched with some soothing music makes for ample visual appeal. Of course, one cannot miss out on the destructing, thought provoking visuals of war. Typically Spielberg. Remember Saving Private Ryan? Next is Jeremy Irvine who does manage to bring out the restlessness (and determination) of a teen who is just not willing to give up on Joey. But then it is Joey ultimately who comes out the real (war) hero. Not because Spielberg made it a point to essay fourteen different horses to portray the progression of Joey from colt to adult. Not even because he is worth every penny when galloping all panic-stricken through barbed wires. It's for the ultimate humane message the animal gives out: We ought to be careful not to start a war.
Mrigank Dhaniwala, KoiMoi.com
Lee Hall and Richard Curtis’ screenplay, adapted from a novel of the same name, is very engaging and interesting, in spite of the rather long running time of the film. To their credit, the writers have woven an inspiring and humane screenplay in the middle of one of the most disastrous wars mankind has ever seen. The film starts at Albert’s crisis-riddled home, where Albert learns of his father’s previous valour as a solider of the British army. And it ends at his home, when Albert returns from the war, victorious and with the beloved Joey.
The writers have also managed to create characters that are eminently likeable – Albert, Captain Nichols, Emilie, Emilie’s grandfather – all have the audience’s sympathy throughout the film.
On the minus side, the drama drags a little in the latter half though the climax makes up for it.
Joe Marino, The Telegraph
Seeing something as brutal, terrible and human as war through the innocent eyes of a horse is an ambitious form of storytelling, and Spielberg pulls it off with honesty and authenticity. I felt each emotion as if I was a marionette, manipulated by the director's strings.
The most telling scene, set in No Man's Land, involves a German and an English soldier, a pair of wirecutters, a horse and a casual conversation about home.
It reveals what makes this a movie that will be watched generation after generation, with each one crying and cheering in the same places.
Philip French, The Observer
Directed by Spielberg in his most self-consciously epic manner, it takes the loyal, handsome, headstrong Joey from the windswept moors of Devon through the horrors of the first world war battlefields and back home again for the grandest sunset since Scarlett O'Hara told us that "tomorrow is another day" in Gone With the Wind. War is one of Spielberg's obsessions and he seems to have engraved on his heart Wilfred Owen's celebrated declaration: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."
War Horse is a series of brilliantly staged, highly charged setpieces starting with the lives of the proud, penniless Narracott family made special by the possession of Joey in a landscape aggrandised by a John Williams score steeped in Delius, Elgar and Vaughan Williams. There's a marvellous sequence when Albert and Joey transform an apparently useless stretch of stony land into a fertile field, the plough turning up the dark, waxy soil like a series of images from a Seamus Heaney poem.
Anthony Quinn, The Independent
A Steven Spielberg film about the enduring relationship between a boy and his horse, and the terrible war that sunders them, can be guaranteed to showcase this director's signature moves. It will come at an epic sweep, and length; it will be swaddled in dramatic colours and a surging John Williams score; it will exalt the human struggle to survive. And, collectively, it will lay siege to the audience's tear ducts. There will be blub.
Spielberg, attempting to translate the story to the screen, drops this wonderful mechanism for an actual horse, losing both the theatrical majesty of the creature and the storybook quality of the tale. It is woefully misconceived, an object lesson in why certain narratives are suited to one medium and not another. To fit the analogy to the subject, he has put this horse up for the wrong race. Those who haven't seen the stage play will possibly wonder why such a plodding, unfocused story was considered ripe for film.
The emotional finale that follows returns us to the original problem of theatricality – of a whistle being heard across a chaotic field hospital, of crowds of soldiers parting as though in a stage musical, of a recognition scene that's straight out of panto. The conventions of the stage keep grinding against the rock-hard realism of war. Of course, you can't help welling up a bit when the pieces fall into place. The film makes sure you can't help it – hell, you've just been Spielberged.