This isn’t the ultimate battle between cynical filmgoer and happy-go-lucky filmgoer. There is something actually very wrong with War Horse, and no matter how many times it made you cry or made you go goggly eyed at the cinematography, it is shallow.
If enough people walk out of theaters with crumpled up tissues in their hands (non skin flick), aspiring filmmakers will look at War Horse as the “how to” way of getting an emotional reaction from the audience. NO. There is not a truly earned moment of heart in War Horse. The manipulative Spielberg is firmly planted in your bowl of mushy gushy and splashes around like a toddler every five minutes. I long for Bambi.
I didn’t buy Spielberg’s unrelenting attack on the soul nads, so watching it was about as uncomfortable as having an old man put his hand on my lap, giving it a squeeze every here and there. The biggest offense of War Horse is not only that, but the fact it looks so damn good.
This stunning imagery is molested, being used only for manipulative purposes. I’ve never said this before, but I think this is abuse of the camera. Spielberg can indeed direct a great, moving motion picture if you ask me, but War Horse yells that he can’t anymore.
Steven reached nirvana with Schindler’s List, hit his peak with Saving Private Ryan, and should have signed off after Munich (could’ve been a wonderfully bleak note to end on). For all the coolness of Tin Tin (released around the same time as this), even that felt like it shouldn’t have been more than what it was (the russian nesting doll of comics).
So what lessons does War Horse teach us that we haven’t already been taught before? Better yet, what lessons does War Horse teach us that Spielberg hasn’t already driven into our skulls before? Oh… None.
Albert (Jeremy Irvine) lives with his unhappy parents that are doing the best they can (Peter Mullan and Emily Watson) in WWI England. I assume there isn’t a woman with straight teeth and a clean buttox within miles, so Albert becomes very attached to a male horse that neighs Disney Pixar glitter.
As you see in the trailer (a trailer that is basically the whole 146 minutes cut down to 3), Joey is the most extraordinary horse ever put to film (this has never been a good thing, maybe Ang Lee can redeem movie animals with a Tiger). At least The Black Stallion was buyable, showing it’s amazing beast as a retarded creature that is hard to get. This damned animal does everything but sprout wings after leaving the womb and spread it’s cheeks.
Albert probably has sex with Joey. It is the Top Gun relationship of our time, which did bring a smile to my face. But that smile waned as I looked around the theater, seeing people young and old swoon over the bonding moments between them. I sank.
After a wonderful summer I’m sure neither of them will forget, old whiskey is auctioned off to be a war horse. Albert cries like a bitch while a respectable lover rides off with Joey. The guy riding gets mowed down instead of the horse. How did the rider get shot? Not by rifle, but by a machine gun that killed every other horse within range. This horse miraculously survives, and goes through some adventures before briefly settling down with a sickly girl and her father (played by Niels Arestrup, of A Prophet glory).
Spielberg and his writers (the gents behind Billy Elliot and Love Actually) don’t do a good job showing that everyone took crap during the war, but instead portray this horse as terrible luck. Joey brings gifts of death and sadness all around until returned to his original owner. The thing is the four horses of the apocalypse rolled up in one.
The centerpiece of this movie is when Joey rides through a glossed up battlefield. The war zone is not remotely violent, and has a touch of fireworks at nightfall. Joey does a thundering flip, and gets tangled in barb wire. How will horsey escape!? This certainly must be his end… That is until both opposing sides get on the field and cut him loose. No shots fired, but total cooperation and a chuckle. Sure, this is implausible, but did I find it heartwarming or wonderful? No. It was hilarious, and I almost had to step out of the theater, broken by the sheer stupidity.
I’m not heartless. My tear ducts are fans of a number of flicks. I just don’t like being, yes, manipulated into feeling something. The violence in Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List was so ugly, graphic, and matter-of-fact that I did feel something. When you are dying or have a gun to your head, you have no dignity or pride. You piss yourself, offer a BJ, then cry for your mother while bleeding out. You don’t hold your lover in your hands, but your guts. The squeamish Spielberg now uses a windmill to block the killing of two boys.
(On a side note, Spielberg is thinking about pulling out the CG walkie-talkies from his new E.T cut and putting in the original guns. What the hell was wrong with it in the first place, man? Did anyone see the guns until you pointed them out?)
This time round, the old man of Hollywood cinema dishes out the loudest, most Gone With the Wind moves in the book. From the obnoxious score by John Williams, to the constantly crying characters looking into the camera, to the long sunset shots, the whole show is meant to get under your skin.
Once again, the small saving graces of this movie are it’s unintentional hilarity and imagery. The great production quality should have gone to a better project, but there’s something nice about seeing something so good looking, even if it is dull when stripped. The shots are played for fools, but still.
I can’t judge anyone for supporting War Horse. Having an opinion, especially on the internet, is one of the great sharing experiences of cinema. But directors and writers do listen to you, and sure enough one day you will be sick of this shit.
*Drop dead gorgeous. Unfortunately.
*Funniest movie of 2011 in my opinion.
*Not as boring as most movies of this superhuman length.
*On the big screen, kind of thrilling.
*Sunshine and lollipops by the end.
*Oh isn’t that horse so f*king beautiful?
*Will be the poster child for tear-jerking period pieces. Atonement, where are you?!1
*It is a crime that it looks so good. Someone arrest Janusz Kaminski until he agrees to stop doing Spielberg movies.