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Overall Rating
2.97

Awesome: 18.75%
Worth A Look28.13%
Average: 12.5%
Pretty Bad: 12.5%
Total Crap28.13%

3 reviews, 14 user ratings


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War Horse
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Ironic--A Horse That Puts Everyone Else To Sleep"
1 stars

Some eagle-eyed readers have noticed that I haven't quite gotten around to reviewing "War Horse," the latest highly touted epic from Steven Spielberg and have wondered why I have seemingly overlooked it even as I have made sure to put my feelings regarding the likes of "Underworld 4" out there for all to see. There is a simple explanation for this--I didn't much care for it and didn't much feel like going on at length about why I didn't like it. And yet, with all the acclaim that it has inexplicably received in certain quarters, I suppose that it is time that I offer up a few notes on it, even if it is only to tacitly suggest that of the two Spielberg productions in release right now, it places a distant second to the not-impressive show that is "The Adventures of Tintin."

As you no doubt know by now, the film chronicles the melodramatic and frankly sentimental tale of Joey, a thoroughbred that is taken from its young master, Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and sold to the British army at the onset of World War I, thereby beginning a journey that takes it from a British officer to a couple of deserting German soldiers to an adorable-but-sickly French girl and her grandpapa to the corpse-filled trenches of the battlefield. Meanwhile, in the hopes of one day reuniting with his horse, Albert leaves his parents (Peter Mullan and Emily Watson, the latter frankly redoing her role from the long-forgotten adaptation of "Angela's Ashes") and enlists himself, a move that opens his eyes to the horrors of war, at least until they are temporarily blinded via a convenient gas attack. I wouldn't dream of revealing if boy and beast are reunited but if they are, you can surely bet that such a reunion will be presented in the most shameless manner possible.

I don't mind that the film is melodramatic and frankly sentimental--that is its entire raison d'Ítre, after all--but what I do object to is that it is melodramatic and frankly sentimental in the worst possible ways. For starters, even though Spielberg is no stranger to sentiment, he ladles it on so thickly here (especially with the help of John Williams' unrelenting and obtrusive score) that I found myself resenting his relentless attempts at manipulation after a while--at times it feels as if the film is leaping off the screen to grab you by the lapels in order to throttle you into submission.Then there is the fact that Spielberg is unable to make the horse into a compelling character to hang a narrative around--this is possible, as anyone who has seen the gorgeous "The Black Stallion" can attest, but he can do nothing more with the animal than turn it into a four-legged version of the topcoat in "Tales of Manhattan" that linked all the disparate vignettes together.

To make up for this, he instead spends plenty of time following Albert around, a move that might have worked if it weren't for the fact that the character, at least as embodied here, is so creepy in the way that it fixates on the animal literally from its birth that the whole enterprise begins to feel like a prequel to "Equus" at times. There are a few decent moments scattered here and there--the early battle sequence where the British troops heedlessly storm into what turns out to be a slaughter at the hands of the more heavily-armed Germans is a masterful creation--but those are unfortunately counter-balanced by some of the lamest and most ham-handed sequences that Spielberg has ever presented (the worst being the already-infamous bit in which a German soldier and a British soldier join forces in the middle of a temporary cease-fire to free the horse from the barbed wire it is trapped in while musing ludicrously and at interminable length about the nature of a "war horse."

Seemingly conceived more as a vehicle to score Oscar nominations than anything else, "War Horse" is a long, boring and vaguely insulting mess that offers up the depressing sight of an infinitely talented filmmaker simply going through the motions, as elaborate as they may be, and the end result pretty much does for the subjects of war and horses what "Amistad" did for slavery--nada.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=20713&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/24/12 10:42:15
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User Comments

12/24/13 Michelle O wish I had seen this in the theatre! & that's MAJOR for me!! 4 stars
6/23/12 glitter Syrupy sentimental, unbelievable plot twists. Had its moments but in the end I felt nothing 2 stars
5/25/12 Scott B. Couldn't have said it better. Got tired of being hit over the head with sentimentality. 3 stars
4/24/12 Chris B Awful film. Horrible lighting. Orange photoshop ending. 1 stars
3/28/12 Tyler Kirk REALLY? Why are the majority of the reviews "Total Crap"? This movie was great! 4 stars
3/25/12 Svend P Spot on! Very Boring movie indeed 2 stars
3/20/12 Herbert M Berman I walked out about an hour into the dull prologue. 1 stars
3/14/12 M plodded along, cast was a bit drab but plot/visuals kept me through 3 stars
2/05/12 Movie lover It a piece of crap, syrupy drivel, trite garbage! 1 stars
1/27/12 Andy Mellor Formulaic sentimental rubbish. Possibly Speilberg's worst film 2 stars
1/26/12 Devin Sabas slow a rare miss for spielberg 2 stars
1/11/12 PAUL SHORTT WELL MADE, HEARTWARMING AND OLD-FASHIONED IN THE BEST SENSE OF THE WORD 3 stars
1/05/12 Joanna Cumberbatch Good for present day movies; shortchanged grandfather/granddaughter subplot 4 stars
12/28/11 Darkstar It's good, but not worthy of a best pic nomination 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  25-Dec-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 03-Apr-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  25-Dec-2011
  DVD: 03-Apr-2012




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