War Horse (2011) – 4/5

At times schmaltzy, at times genuine and heartfelt little multi-million dollar film that manages to succeed far more often than it fails, mostly thanks to some, as expected, fine direction, beautiful imagery, and a brilliant performance by the horse, or horses, used to portray the title character, assuming the creature wasn’t mostly CGI, that is. It looked like a real horse at least, but who can tell f0r sure nowadays? Either way, someone give that horse an award. The little girl playing the granddaughter of the old guy was also really good, and adorable.

The film is typical Spielbergian pretty lights and closeups and big emotional scenes with brightly lit eyes and people looking at things really intently. It looks great, in other words, but, again, it’s Spielberg; beauty is to be expected. The script is a bit on the iffy side, though, at least initially. The first act or so is really sappy, almost to the point of being rather dull. It does pick up once **SPOILERS** the horse is sold off to a soldier going to war and the film can finally stop focusing on that stupid boring sappy family. God. And what was with that whole plowing scene at the beginning? What a confusing, emotionally manipulative mess that was. **END SPOILERS**

The film’s saving grace is the fact that it chooses to focus on the horse and his many adventures trying to stay alive rather than his experiences with just one family. He meets many interesting people along the way, including a segment with an old man and his granddaughter that is probably the best, most well acted of the lot, though the later war scenes are also pretty great. In fact, the battle scenes in this movie are probably some of the most intense since “Saving Private Ryan.” Bloodless, but still extremely terrifying. And the whole **SPOILERS** horse getting tangled in barbed wire and needing to be rescued by opposing  soldiers was brilliant. **END SPOILERS** Schmaltzy and manipulative, sure, but clever, and visually stunning/metaphoric.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. It’s big and pompous as only Spielberg can be, but it’s also enjoyable, emotional, and effective for the most part. And kind of sad too for some reason. Recommended, especially if you’re a fan of big manipulative movies. I know I am.

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