Spielberg's Film: Contrived, Manipulative, Yet Bloody Good.
War Horse shouldn't be a good film. There are so many coincidences, such over-wraught moments, and so many obvious attempts to pluck the heart strings, this film should be tripe. But it isn't. It really says something for the direction, writing and acting, when those cheap devices become totally irrelevant in respect to warm feeling you get from this film.
Right off of the bat, I knew what this film was going to do
. It begins with a poor farmer seeing a beautiful horse. It is utterly inappropriate as a beast of burden, but he buys it anyway
. Though it looks like a waste of money, the farmer's son, Albert, bonds with it and teaches it to be (somehow) a really good farm horse. But then the war happens, the two are separated, and the question is whether they'll get back together again. It begins slow, Albert was a bit of a drip, and the movie crossed a line into mawk territory. But once the War starts, the teething trobule goes right out the window.
One immediate quality is that though the movie features greedy landlords, heartless officers, spoilt rich bastards and german soldiers: the default enemies of most movies, these people aren't villains. The horse sees all sides of the First World War, and as such, everyone gets humanised. From the horse's perspective, there are no enemies
. Only war itself is the enemy, not the people. And that is a brilliantly realised concept.
Ironically, the most humanised character is the horse itself. The horse is most empathetic animal I have ever seen on screen, and it is the key to the whole film's success. Whenever the film cut away to the human actors, I just wanted to get back to the horse. It is the chief reason why this film gets away with everything it does.
There are flaws: At times, the dialogue felt artificial, with characters basically describing the movie's themes instead of trusting the audience observe them. Another issue is they should have let the German character's speak german, or the French speak French. But these are just trivial issues in light of the heart behind this movie, which always prevails.
You might have seen the trailer and already dismissed this movie in your head. Don't. War Horse
may be everything you expect it to be, yet it'll still get to you in the end.