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Guest Review: ‘War Horse’

Spielberg’s Equestrian Epic Arrives for Christmas

Above: Steve Spielberg's "War Horse" out December 25th.

Steven Spielberg's new equestrian epic "War Horse" opens December 25 throughout San Diego

Whether you despised the futuristic landscape of “A.I. (Artificial Intelligence)” or still feel trapped in the concentration camps of “Schindler’s List”, Steven Spielberg’s films hold a nostalgia built over a growing repertoire of classic storytelling. Whether it’s the powerful scores of John Williams or the epic travels of moving characters, Spielberg has a knack for morphing storytelling into myth right before your eyes. His newest movie, “War Horse”, is no exception.

The film follows the journey of a young boy, Albert Narracott (played by newcomer Jeremy Irvine) and his horse from the English countryside through the turbulence and tumult of Europe during World War I. When war breaks out and Albert’s prized colt, Joey, is sold to the English Calvary to save the Narracott’s family farm, both boy and beast are thrown through the gauntlet of World War I.

Here's the film's trailer.

The story is straightforward enough. It doesn’t hurt that the origins of the tale not only extend from a popular children’s book, but also a Tony award winning play. I sincerely appreciate how Spielberg takes a play renowned for it’s unique puppeteering and puts his talent and swag as a cinema storyteller at the forefront. The transition from stage to screen can be a rough one at times and maybe over-played in the musical theater genre, but the director did a wonderful job at maintaining an inspiring story in this theatrical epic.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve fallen in love with the new horse-whisperer documentary “Buck” or that I recently spent five weeks working on a rural farm in Southwestern Ireland, but this film felt so tied to me. Now I didn't react like Pavlov's dog every time Spielberg dropped an emotional cue. Sometimes it's like he’s hidden a laugh-track or sliced onions to make the audience respond with laughter or tears. Nonetheless, the movie felt very personal to me and some of the film's messages were delivered majestically thanks to the crisp cinematography of Janusz Kaminski and the rich score by none other than John Williams.

"War Horse"

Touchstone PIctures

Above: "War Horse"

Typical of Spielberg’s graphic depiction war, it should be noted that “War Horse” (rated PG-13 for intense sequences of war violence) should not be confused as film for all ages. While the theme of connections between horses and people is deep and beautiful across generations, there are scenes during this film, one of which involved the horse getting tangled barb wire, that I found to be really graphic and likely too intense for kids in the younger audience.

Companion Viewing: “The Black Stallion” (1979), “Empire of the Sun” (1987), “Buck” (2011)

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