By Tommy Bond, Film Critic
If anyone has been missing the Steven Spielberg of old, the man behind Raiders of the Lost Ark, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler’s List, I found him back in full stride directing this cinematic tour de force: War Horse.
This is one of the most beautifully filmed movies of the millennium, reminiscent of the gorgeously lavish days of Technicolor, intricate sets, and wide open skies.
As WWI strikes in England, a young farm boy is forced to part with his beloved horse, a miraculous animal named Joey. This sweeping epic follows Joey’s journey across Europe, as he then belongs in turn to a British captain in the Calvary, a pair of German brothers, a young sickly French girl, a grunt soldier in the German army, and a couple of others along the way to a heart tugging finale.
Spielberg wonderfully combines new filmmaking techniques with the styles of Hollywood’s glory days, and the result is just breathtaking.
The bond that is formed and developed between the boy, Albert Narracott, and his horse is once in a lifetime, and is truly the stuff of legend. The war scenes are intense and visceral, not shy about the emotionless monster of death that a World War is to all who fight. The screenplay takes us seamlessly from location to location, owner to owner, and somehow finds a way for us to immediately identify with each new character, feeling for them and rooting for them. This is great drama. The performances only enhance the experience and none is less than the horse himself, who with mere nods and sighs can pull on our heartstrings and speak to us more loudly than words.
When Steven Spielberg was but a wee lad, he met the great film craftsman John Ford. He gave Spielberg one piece of advice: “Always place the horizon at the top or bottom of your frame, never in the middle.” This idea, as well as many wonderful homages to the late Ford, are brilliantly present in one of Spielberg’s best works that culminates in what may very well be the most hauntingly gorgeous ending to any film I have ever seen.
John Ford would have been proud.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of war violence.
Running Time: 146 Minutes.
Released in theatres: December 25th, 2011.