War Horse: a review…then fade to black.
Went to watch this for my day-off with Emily and Kay. To be completely honest, I wanted to watch this movie only cuz I heard about Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch were in it. Aside from that, I knew nothing about what this movie as about. (at ALL. Never seen a trailer, etc. Probably a poor way to start this sort of movie.)
Quick summary: A horse, a high-spirited thoroughbred, is born, and a silly farmer buys him at a high price to plow a field. The farmer’s boy, Albert, trains him and names him Joey, but soon the horse is sold into the war to pay off the debt. Joey travels between tons of people, seeing all sorts of people affected by the war, and the rest is spoilers.
The good point of this movie is it’s very pretty, and Spielberg captured the environment very nicely. However…I was distracted I could see how many of the shots were so deliberate. The choices in the shots were done in a way that was to get the best composition, the most beautifully orchestrated shot, and it was just so planned that I couldn’t help but notice it. Things like having people moving and stopping at a certain point, not to stop moving to talk or to turn, but because that’s where the camera wanted them to go. The shots weren’t chosen to improve the story or to push the emotion, but to make it look pretty.
This detail boils up down to a super-slow pacing, as a lot of the shots were long cuts for scenery enjoyment with little to no important dialogue. The first 5 minutes pretty much passes with barely any dialogue, and it just doesn’t intrigue people about Joey at all. It’s just a horse being born. And the film rarely picks up any pace from that….as the rest is just a horse pretty much surviving.
One thing that did feel too fast in this film was how quickly characters come and go. This movie was probably removed about 10 different characters from the screen after they each had their 15 minute little plot piece. They make good use of that time to tell us who that character is and what they stand for, but in the end, with all the long shots and quick deaths, you end up barely caring for any of those characters and nothing memorable comes out of it.
A lot of this film just felt like such a set up to me…to make the perfect-looking horse movie. So then it loses the heart and meaning of how I’m supposed to care about the lives this horse touched, or even the horse himself. He did little except be there…well, and apparently be a thoroughbred that can pull a plow.
It’s not a bad movie, but not one I’d really watch again or being ground-breaking. I guess I expected a bit more from Spielberg, but I can probably blame it on the editors. Seriously, fading to black isn’t the answer to cut to the next plot point.