This weekend I managed to see two Steven Spielberg movies and that usually is a recipe for a great movie-going weekend. Sadly, that wasn’t the reality.
First up was War Horse. This is a bit of a strange film in that the star of the film is the horse and in a way that’s unlike most other movies. Animals in the title role are almost always not really the prime catalyst with respect to moving the plot along. Here the horse is the center of the universe and we get introduced to its various owners along most of its life. Those characters, while essential to the plot, come and go so quickly that it’s pretty hard not to focus on the horse itself.
The film has been receiving fairly solid reviews and I can see why but for many viewers those comments simply won’t result in an entertaining experience. The film looks absolutely beautiful. The cinematography was stunning. Spielberg certainly knows how to get the best look for any shot and that’s evident here. The music is also well done and that’s no surprise given that it’s done by multi-Oscar-winning musical director John Williams (and frequent Spielberg movie partner).
However, that’s about all there is to say that’s really memorable about the film. It runs 2 hours and 26 minutes but it felt so much longer. The main problem is that given the quick changes of ownership and settings we can never really get to care about all but one or two other characters in the film. Since the main character is an actual horse and not some fictional animated animal it also is hard to really connect. We never really get the feeling that the horse is doing anything more than just simply experiencing everything around it in extremely basic horse-like fashion. A gun goes boom—the horse runs.
The biggest problem of all is in the final ending sequence. It’s so ludicrously unbelievable that I felt like I’d wasted the entire 150 minutes. In the earliest parts of the film I was thinking this could be a tear-jerking classic but that fell away after the first 15 minutes or so. The end result is a film so dwarfed by countless other animal films that its hard to even suggest you catch it on cable. I can imagine someone who loves horses finding something somewhere in this film to enjoy but, for me, they’d have to be wearing blinders.