Do you remember how on the last day of school term, post exams, when teachers had nothing left to teach, we’d be sat indoors watching a VHS? Maybe they’ll try the War Horse DVD from now on. It’s that kind of afternoon-devourer of a film. Blandly innocuous, inoffensive with some well-intentioned relation to historical events, Spielberg’s equine-led schmaltz-bucket lacks excitement. More
Opening in the 1910s, we are greeted with a sequence of filly and foal cantering around hillocks in a storybook Devon. Get ready for plenty more of this, says Spielberg. Unfortunately horses are not the most expressive of beasts and there is no escaping the blank-eyed, dead-brained void that the titular character provides. That’s even with John William’s incessant score providing our every emotional cue.
Joey (that’s the horse) progresses through several sequences, each populated with earnest, Dudley-do-rights that beat us over the head with heavy-handed sentiment. Finally he arrives in the muddy trenches on the Western Front, the bit where you’ll sit up and take notice, even if a sanitised lack of blood seems surprising for the director of Saving Private Ryan.
It’s vaguely notable to consider the stylistic references to classic British films, whether general (a ‘40s visual aesthetic of a romanticised, bucolic England) or specific (a cavalry charge influenced by a similar moment in Lawrence of Arabia), and Spielberg still has the odd moment of cinematic inspiration, but War Horse is a rather uninteresting film and sadly the first of the director’s that I cared nothing for. Hide