Yup, a review of a current film you won’t struggle to find showings of. This means you can consider this consumer advice if you wanted to. I could actually save you money. Well, unless I end up giving this film a rather schizophrenic review and award it an average three stars or summat.
War Horse (2012)
If the insane amount of marketing is to be believed, Spielberg is “back and better than ever” and War Horse promises to jerk more tears than a (insert thing that jerks a lot of tears in a semi-comedic situation). The glowing reviews also seemed to confirm that yes, this is a film that harkens back to the good ol’ days of moviemaking and moved captive audiences to floods of tears. Maybe my X79 Emotion Simulator Chip is loose, but I sat down and two and a half hours later I stood up again, no more moved than when I went in. I was baffled to see people, their faces shining with fresh sad juice walking past me, pulling those weird faces that people do when they’re embarrassed about crying and trying to laugh it off by exaggerating things like dabbing their eyes. Once again, the emotional disconnect between the general public and myself grows ever deeper.
“Gentlemen, it is an honour to ride beside you. Make the Kaiser rue the day he crossed swords with us. Let every man do himself, his King, his country, and his fallen comrades proud. Be brave.”
Set in Dartmoor in 1914, War Horse is the story of a bond between farmer’s boy Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) and Joey the horse. After his drunken father (Peter Mullan) sells the horse to the British Army to pay the rent on his struggling farm, the heartbroken Albert vows to find Joey again, no matter what. The story is that horse story i.e. a child/teenager forms an unlikely bond with an unruly horse and the pair soon reach a mutual understanding. Which is fine, I guess. A bit girly though. Good thing we have a socking great war in the middle though, for us barrel-chested lads. What sets War Horse apart from other “horsey” films is that we see the different perspectives of war through Joey’s ever-changing owners. For instance, in one scene we have a grandfather and granddaughter taking care of the horse and in another we see Joey being put to work as a literal war horse, lugging a massive cannon up a muddy hill for Ze Germans. The film is almost episodic and plays like a parallel universe Tarantino film, where characters exchange loving looks and sentimentality instead of f-words and bullets. Obviously the acting is up to scratch- newcomer Jeremy Irvine impressed the fuck out of me, whereas seasoned actors like Peter Mullan, Emily Watson and David Thewlis all gave an air of class to proceedings.
Before I start working the ribs, let me just say, I didn’t hate War Horse. It’s impressive filmmaking. The fine acting on display, the golden cinematography and the unapologetically melodramatic John Williams score all add up to a fantastically well made film. There are elements I loved, it’s just the plot didn’t really work for me. Having said that, there’s a sequence in No Man’s Land which was brilliant and moving, without being mawkish. I also love that War Horse has a response to Rise of the Planet of the Apes‘ “Gorilla Vs. Helicopter” awesomeness. New for 2012, it’s “Horse Vs. Tank”! The war sequences are effective and surprisingly harrowing considering we never see any bloodshed on screen. I also liked the fact that the film keeps the Devon setting, despite the downside that everyone in the first half hour talks like Samwise fucking Gamgee.
I’m not made of stone. I have cried at films before and I’m only semi-ashamed to say that the last film I remember crying at was Wall-E. My final line in the first paragraph about “the emotional disconnect” between Joe Public and I may read like a smug bellend typing down unjustified reason #7002 on why he thinks he’s better than everyone else. I assure you, this is not the case. There’s nothing better than having a collective audience response in a film, be it laughing at the same bits or even applauding at the end. I like feeling like part of a group. Thing is, War Horse was too obvious to illicit tears from me, if that makes sense. There were no surprise emotional gut-punches or sudden tragic turns. Yeah, the horse goes through some hardship, but it didn’t make me bawl like a bitch. I empathised, sure, but that’s where it stopped.
“I could love you no less, but I could hate you more.”
War Horse is good, but I felt it took too long to tell a simple, rather hackneyed story. Despite doing a good job giving Joey a personality, I just wasn’t invested enough to have a lump in my throat at any point. It’s a masterclass in the technical side of making films, it just left me feeling underwhelmed after reports of people sobbing out their spleens in preview screenings. I was going to make a joke about much rather seeing a film called War Whores, but they effectively did that and it wasn’t much fun either.