This high-def edition of the Spielberg war flick is technically marvelous, but did the movie deserve its Best Picture nomination....?
Buena Vista / 147 Minutes / 2011 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: April 3, 2012
Steven Spielberg definitely tries to tap into the spirit of John Ford with War Horse, a drama that is almost deafening in its old-fashioned cinematic cadence. In fact, one of War Horse's most endearing elements is that it seems like a movie out of time - it's not a winky throwback (Spielberg and company are in full earnest here) but a film that feels like it could have been made in 2011 or thirty years ago.
It's this malleability, however, that undercuts War Horse's potential as a wartime fable. Not surprisingly, there are moments within the picture that hint at that old Spielberg magic, sequences that marry the majesty of John Williams' score, the impressionistic urgency of Janusz Kaminski's camerawork, and Steven's steady visual design, but one never gets the impression that Spielberg really makes an impression with War Horse. All its ducks are in a row, but throughout its 2+ hour running time, it doesn't know exactly what it's going for.
The story is pure Spielberg: An English boy (Jeremy Irvine) finds himself as a trainer for a horse named Joey, a thoroughbred who ends up getting recruited for service in WWI. As this horse experiences battles - and a revolving door of people involved in it - we get a view of those awful times with fleeting but panoramic import: You see, Joey the horse is destined to return to the English boy who trained him, connecting both his wartime journey and Europe's.
Again, there's nothing distinctly wrong with War Horse. As a casual Blu-ray experience, it's easy to see why the movie elicited moderate - and nearly universal - praise from critics and audiences alike, but I doubt that War Horse will end up being a Spielberg flick for the ages. It's engrossing, gorgeous (top-notch technical prowess on high-def here), and often emotionally stirring, but not quite up to Spielberg's own high standards.
And Dragon Tattoo deserved War Horse's Best Picture nod.