It's one of the worst films I've seen in years, and with its imminent release on DVD, here is my bid to save you from 150minutes of having steaming manure rubbed in your eyes.
Now I must warn you that this blog may contain the odd spoiler or two, but to be honest, Spielberg seems to have done a fairly extensive job of spoiling the film himself.
So where to begin with this horse meat roasting? In order to accurately critique this lame pony, I'm subjecting myself to a second viewing, so let's start at the very beginning.
Main (human) character Albert and his annoyingly earnest optimism would be far too easy a place to begin to pick holes, and I could actually fill a list of twenty with characters that I despise, and so to focus my rant, we shall start with the worst:
1) Albert's best friend, Andrew Easton.
He made me wish the film had been presented in 3D so I could at least attempt to reach forward and gag his mugging, toothy grin, whose only cringe-worthy function seems to be to point out the bleeding obvious - fairly useful on stage, I'd imagine, but he weighs down the film like a rusty plough. But if there's one thing he does well, it's to illustrate my next complaint:
2) Dialogue clunkier than a World War I tank.
It's not just Andrew that points out the obvious, it's as if every stage direction is repeated out loud. I can't imagine an amateur production having a script like this, let alone a "Spielberg Masterpiece" - the Daily Mail's words, not mine.
3) The 'epic' lighting
I won't get all techie in deconstructing the bizarre, ugly look of this film, but Oscar-worthy cinematography, this is not.
4) Joey (the Horse) is a idealogical flip-flopper
Joey seems equally happy cavalry-charging into war on behalf of the British as he is driving the German occupation forward. Has he no morals? A genuine heroic horse would have laid down his life rather than lift a gun all the way to the top of the hill so that the Germans could kill more British soldiers.
One may argue, of course, that he is only a horse, and "what would he know about action/reaction and right vs. wrong". But if that were true, then why are we making a bloody film about him? Which leads me rather nicely onto....
5) He's only a bloody horse, why are we making a film about him?
Throughout Spielberg lovingly zooms in on a forlorn looking Joey, looking back at his best friends left behind. Oh, what acting, he looks so genuinely forlorn. Come on Joey, buck up, why the long face? Oh yeah, because he's a horse. It's not emoting, it's an actual horse's face.
6) The allure of the beloved stage play is now ruined.
One of the cherished things about the stage play was the 'humanity' of the horse puppet. Possible, I imagine, due to the humanity of the puppeteers. In the film, it's just a horse, and you know damn well that he's just looking towards the carrot dangling on a stick beside the camera.
7) What's the point?
True, I'm sure this could also be said of the stage play, but there doesn't seem to be a point to this story: no moral, no lesson and frankly, no sentiment nor emotion to boot.
8) Sherlock's moustache.
9) Albert's best friend, Andrew Easton, again.
As if once wasn't enough, and unlike most of the other one dimensional characters in the film, War Horse's answer to Jar Jar Binks turns up again in the World War I trenches. Fortunately he dies soon after. Sorry if I've ruined that for you, but I did warn you.
10) To be honest, I've never really liked horses.
I've not had the strongest relationship with horses ever since I was mauled by one when I was a young lad, in Sweden. Still, even my horse-loving homeboy hated this film, so I don't think it's just me.
So please don't watch this film. If you really have to see a film about real love between a man and horse, why not watch Zoo instead!
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