Monday 9 January 2012

War Horse

For the second time in his career, Steven Spielberg has knocked out an entertaining family favourite and a weepy, Oscar-baiting war epic in the same year. But while The Secret Adventures Of Tintin The Unicorn came close to Jurassic Park in terms of cock-waggling fun, War Horse is no Schindler's List. Unless Schindler's list read: "Horse, war, boy, massive amounts of cheese, comedy goose". Which is fairly unlikely.

The biggest difference is that War Horse is based on a children's book, so there are none of the horrors of war that defined Schindler's List or Saving Private Ryan. In their place is a simplistic and calculated exercise in heartstring-pulling that requires the cynicism-free heart of a child to sit through, lest you bring up your dinner on the person in front when forced to swallow some of the most contrived John Williams-flavoured cheesecake since Hayden Christensen tried to nob Natalie Portman in a Naboo field. All of which would be fine if there was more to entertain the under-12s, but short of the aforementioned and underused comedy goose, the melodrama to funballs ratio is tediously high.

There are, of course, a couple of the requisite Spielberg moments you'd expect, and Janusz Kaminski's cinematography renders the whole thing undeniably gorgeous in a ridiculously false, permanently-backlit way, but everything else is just so obvious, to the point where, when a heartless soldier is required to pull a gun on our hero's lovely horse, it's none other than cinema's favourite rentabastard Eddie Marsan who's asked to pull the trigger. Still, at least he's not expected to affect the go-to English countryside-dweller's accent favoured by half the cast:
Still, it's fun to play cream-of-British-acting-talent-desperate-to-be-in-a-Spielberg-film-even-if-it's-just-for-a-couple-of-scenes bingo, and the presence of Peter Mullan provides exciting tension as we wait to see if he decapitates or kicks to death any horses. I'd just rather the horse had been a supporting player and the film's true star could have taken centre stage, but for now it looks like War Goose is still some way off.


  1. Although all of the freshness that was part of the first one is somewhat over-used, the flick is still a lot of fun with Downey Jr., Harris, and Law breathing life into each of their own characters. However, I was kind of disappointed by Noomi Rapace’s role as she just simply stands there and really doesn’t do anything. Regardless though, good review.

  2. Interesting thoughts there Dan. I hadn't realised War Horse was a sequel, and have to confess I missed all the actors you mention. Were they playing other horses? Oh hang on, I remember Noomi Rapace as the goose. She was brilliant, what are you on about?

  3. Spielberg is the master. Like this movie or not you have to admire the flawless skill in the construction. The trouble is that perfection is boring. If your local multiplex has War Horse and Midnight in Paris on offer, then choose the Woody Allen film. You will be going home with a smile on your face.