Written by / 12/26/2011 / No comments / , , ,

WAR HORSE

title: WAR HORSE
year: 2011
cast: Jeremy Irvine, Niels Arestrup, Celine Buckens
rating: **

In 1979's THE BLACK STALLION, it took only the first glance by a kid and a horse to build a connection that would carry through the entire film. That kind of emotional synergy is not only lacking in this old school epic directed by Steven Spielberg, but is practically nonexistent. We begin with a horse that, after being auctioned and sold to a poor farmer who spent more than it's worth, is tamed by his son to plow the fields: even though it’s not built for this kind of work. Spielberg spends too much attention on the dusky skyline, the searing soundtrack, and the gorgeous scenery that the characters seem like props in the background. When World War I breaks out, the horse is sold – along with a black horse that seems its counterpart – and we’re handed off to a new owner: a young British soldier equally entranced as the father and son. The battles scenes are filmed wonderfully, the camera rolling with the action as bombs blast like they’re right behind us – but once again, the characters get lost in the visual spectacle. But it’s when the horses find harbor in a small French farm, hidden by a wise old man (Niels Arestrup) and his beautiful granddaughter (Celine Buckens), that the only real connection occurs. In one suspenseful scene, the girl hides the mares as German officers arrive to take what they need, and we finally have a human story. Meanwhile, the farmer's son, and supposedly the main protagonist, is thrown back into the movie as a soldier in the front lines… And although his battle scenes are somewhat intense, where’s the plot we paid for? If this were about the young girl and the creature she risked her life to protect, it would have been a much better, more meaningful film. But the main problem is the horse itself – although being an extremely talented “actor,” as a character with so many captivated owners, the relationship with its original family means very little by the end.
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