Steven Spielberg, probably the most iconic and creative director of our modern time, returns with the long awaited War Horse. The story follows a young man Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his horse Joey, and their powerful friendship that battles through war, tragedy, and hope. We follow Joey as he’s sold from Albert and becomes a staple in the lives of many throughout the early century.
There’s no denial that there are resplendent aspects to the experience. The beautifully shot picture gives Spielberg a new versatility to explore some of the most tender parts of his cinematic soul. Janusz Kaminski, two-time Oscar winning cinematographer for Schinder’s List and Saving Private Ryan brings some of the most striking images of the year and adds a much needed element of emotion. Along with John Williams’ powerful score which shows relentless execution as he re-imagines some of his other works to allow access for our empathy, these two technical giants are well on Oscar’s radar.
The film’s tranquil nature is surprising as we expect loud, gruesome, and damaging emotional repercussions, instead we are left with a calm, peaceful, and reposing experience. Spielberg hasn’t shown this much restraint before and allows the characters, scenery, and aura to do the narration. Joey’s perspective of war and friendship is a wonderful quality that is worthy of praise. We follow this horse through the deepest trenches of humanity and we still feel like the horse is real, tangible force to be loved and returned. At the core of the film, Joey is the real star. This is Spielberg’s finest venture since A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, a film with weirdly similar common factors. I felt the same type of semblance and emotional connect or lack thereof during the 2001 science fiction film. There’s heart and tenderness right in the meat of the story that attempts to create a form of despondency yet “coming togetherness” in the darkest parts of humanity. It’s not a fluid exposition that feels natural. Often times monotonous and watery, the film never really gets off its feet and slumps its way to the end.