Get ready for another touching and extravagant Spielberg picture. There are two major types of Spielberg films, which I’ll get to later, and War Horse somehow tries to combine both of them into one film. For me, it doesn’t succeed at this, but it does succeed at being a very well made film with a lot to like about it. Unfortunately, there’s almost too much to like about it, and too much that we liked about other Spielberg films that has a repeat performance in this one.
The story is a good one, a touching tale of a boy and his horse companion who, through all odds, struggle to remain together, and bound by the everlasting bonds of friendship. Yeah, it sounds cheesy, and it kinda is, but like most of Spielberg’s cheesy films, he makes it work. The way the film unfolded was through a series of predictable moments, almost frugally designed to elicit laughter, tears, empathy, and a bevy of other emotional responses. The film was so on-the-nose about it that I started rolling my eyes at it whenever it would attempt to play me like a violin, which was damn near every single scene. The technicals, at the very least, were extremely well done, from the colorful and always interesting (to say the least) cinematography to the once-again amazing score by John Williams. The control of the animals in the production was well done as well, I just wanted to mention that at least.
Spielberg is a tricky bird; when he’s serious, he is black-out-sky serious; all the rest of the time, he seems to be very fluffy and formulaic, and while it may be entertaining, it doesn’t rise above its own standards, but rather remains firmly rooted in them for fear of taking a chance to achieve true greatness, and War Horse falls squarely into the latter category. I knew what the whole rest of the film was going to be like, both mood and story, by the first half-hour mark, and while I don’t need to be surprised at unexpected twists to enjoy a movie, fully knowing what the experience will be and then living through that experience to find it exactly as predicted does take away from the enjoyment a bit. This may be a counter-intuitive statement from someone running a movie review blog, and thus details the experiences of the films he watches on a regular basis, but normally this wouldn’t detract from you actually watching the film, but hopefully enhance it and prepare you for the experience. War Horse, while an excellently-made film, is one that was just too by-the-books Spielberg for me to really enjoy what I was watching.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10