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War Horse

As many of you know I was really nervous to see this movie.  I feared I would be reduced to a blubbering mess, but it didn’t happen because the movie was flat and played at only one emotional note through the entire thing.  The horse(s) — I presume there was more than one horse —  was/were wonderful.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say he was the best actor in the movie.

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The film was also too long by at least 20 mintes, probably closer to 30.  I hated the lighting.  I don’t know if they were going for a sense of old tintypes, but it was just annoying, the music was banal (it may be time for John Williams to retire), and I found I couldn’t connect with the “main” character, the boy who trains and loves Joey the horse.  

I would be curious to read the book upon which this film and the stage play were based.  Perhaps it had the same picaresque quality, but it didn’t work in this movie.  We follow the horse as he passes through various hands on his way to being reunited with his owner, but he doesn’t actually affect their lives which, in my humble opinion, is the only way these kind of stories work.

In face I would have dropped two of these center stories, but as my companion pointed out they had to get this horses through four plus years of war, but the sequence with the German brothers, and the French girl and her grandfather just felt like filler.  Though I liked the actors in the French farm sequence quite a lot.  And even with this filler I didn’t buy that all this time had elapsed.

The most effective sequence was when the German and English soldiers meet in the middle of No Man’s Land to cut the horse free from the barbed wire.  There was tension, there was heartache, there was a touch of humor — all things which were lacking in earlier sequences.

As for the script.  They kept setting things up and then dropping them.  They make the point that Joey won’t be a jumper.  Then the little French girl is trying to teach him to jump.  I thought she would succeed and that by her action it would help the horse escape.  But it never paid off.

There the regimental banner that belonged to our hero’s drunken father.  It gets tied to horse’s bridle, and gets preserved by the French grandfather and returned to hero who then returns it to his dad.  But I didn’t like his dad, the father and son had never really discussed war and duty, etc. so the final scene when Albert returns the banner to his dad didn’t have any resonance for me.

There are a couple of cliched moments that made me sigh.  Hero saves the life of the landlord’s son during the battle of the  Somme.  Hero loses his best friend in a gas attack after the guy was afraid, but then made the charge.  Boy, saw that coming from a hundred miles away.

I did like the fact the film basically begins with a horse auction and it ends with an auction.  You think Albert is going to get his horse back, then French grandfather buys the horse, and we learn his granddaughter died — off stage and he wants the horse because it meant so much to her.  But I didn’t believe it because I hadn’t seen enough of her and the horse together, and there was Joey’s horse buddy who was also at the farm so her affection seemed diluted.  And she died off stage so I had a shoulder shrug reaction.

I did like the acknowledgement that horses form deep bonds with one another.  Joey and his big black buddy is a wonderful relationship, but they kind of down played it as if afraid the audience wouldn’t believe it.  I know it’s true, and it was one of the more emotionally satisfying relationships in the movie.

Bottom line.  I’m not sure why this movie got nominated for best picture at the Golden Globes.  I got a bit teary at the end, but it’s just not very emotionally involving.

On the plus side, I got to check out Tom Hiddleston (Loki in Thor) and I think he would make an awesome Noel Matthews in Wild Cards.

 

 

0 Responses to War Horse

  • JG says:

    I agree with many of your comments – I didn’t relate to the boy hero either, and a lot of the stories and resolutions were telegraphed way in advance. However, I actually thought the German brothers story was ok (except it took the Germans way too long to find them). As for the truce story, given Spielberg’s (mistaken, in my opinion) choice to have all the characters speak English, the dialogue about how good the German officer’s English was came off as a bit comical – *all* of the Germans in this movie spoke very good English :->

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