Sunday, 5 February 2012

War Horse

There is something to be said about a film that is simply beautiful. It's not complicated, it's not trying too hard to create some supra aesthetic (*cough* Immortalz *cough*); it's content and natural approach brings together a lovely film.

I say lovely because I do not think it great exactly but War Horse's cinematography and composition is splendid and though I have not seen the play, it feels inspired by such tonal and mood set by the lighting within a theatre. Otherwise the sweeping shots of European countryside are wonderfully captured. And at the heart of it all is a splendid performance by a horse.

No risk of clunky dialogue and more emotional range than Kristen Stewart (boom!), the horse, Joey, is a wonderful personification of spirit. And yes, I do loves me a spirited animal character and one that can race across fields, wind sweeping through mane.

It's totally revived my childhood desire to have a horse companion.

All of this is set beside some touching human conflicts, displayed through Albert's father who has suffered through a previous war. The horrors of the First World War contrast to the romantic, picturesque opening in Devon and that animals are party to the brutal conflict, forced to race into fire and pull abominable heavy artillery brings home how awful it was on these creatures as well - human lives alone weren't lost in the thousands.

As with any Spielberg film, the performances are all first class, with Jeremy Irvine playing the heart and determination needed that sees him united with his horse. The rest of the stellar cast, including Benedict Cumberbatch and Emily Watson, all play their parts admirably and I was particularly impressed by Celine Buckens who plays Emilie, the French girl who takes in Joey and the black stallion (watch out for her). But no one comes close to the horse (or horses), who captures the film and resonates the universal truths about humanity (ironic? - nay!) and enduring friendship. And the script is tight, with no line wasted or arbitrary. Altogether it feels contained but epic - the winning combo for a masterfully made film and there are precious few directors who can balance this as Spielberg does.

In Speilberg's hands, the entire film is a moving experience with John William's soundtrack sustaining this throughout. I will understand that for some, this will not be their cup of tea. For me, it was completely my batch of favourite brew - soothing and warming with a bit of bittersweet bite (if you brew it strong - which I do). Not sure why I ended it on such a note but seeing as the film is made up largely of British contributions, I'll let it be.

VERDICT: 8/10.

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