As I sat down at my favorite Austin movie theater (the Alamo Drafthouse), I was eagerly awaiting an ice cold Draft Beer and some Nachos Libre (Alamo’s amazing Tortilla chips topped with black beans, guacamole, grilled chicken, fresh garlic and sour cream). But I knew I was also there to see War Horse with my family. Not my typical pick of an after-holiday movie, but with everything else that was or has come out this December, I figured why not? I caught a trailer a few days before from one of those other movies and thought, “Okay, I’ll bite on a Spielberg war movie.” It seemed like something I would like to see. His award-winning films have been mostly hard-hitting period dramas, and this was set in World War I. In my opinion, Spielberg has been churning out mediocre movies since the late ’90s. I need an epic Spielberg movie fix.
The crowded line for a late afternoon day-after-Christmas movie was quite short at first, but as we got closer to seating time, the line swelled and there was not an empty seat in the theater. The thing I noticed was that this was not your usual Austin Hipster crowd; it was more of an older crowd and just a few young adults in the theater. Very few young children.
Based on the award-winning play (which is based on Michael Morpurgo’s book of the same name), and set against a beautiful canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War, War Horse begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse called Joey and a young man named Albert, who tames and trains him.
Visions of Saving Private Ryan, Empire of the Sun and Schindler’s List bounced through my mind, but I also thought about the movies Spielberg has produced in 2011 alone, like Super 8 or The Adventures of Tin Tin, and even the up-and-coming Lincoln and When Worlds collide. I think to myself, “Where does War Horse fit into all of this, how can he produce or direct a movie that would be an instant classic like that of E.T. or Raiders of the Lost Ark?”
I sat through the movie with my girlfriend and a 15-year-old teenage boy who truly seemed to enjoy the storyline. But don’t think with his video-game-induced mindset that he wasn’t disappointed because the movie was not full of blood and guts. So don’t expect it to be like Saving Private Ryan or Empire Of The Sun, because War Horse is not on that same level. I do think the movie was a tear-jerker saturated with some hokey lines and a bit of over-dramatic acting, but it did have true emotional moments that are defiantly Oscar bait.
War Horse just didn’t have that epic feel that I wanted it to have. It had more of a Forrest Gump-ish feeling with the horse’s adventures – that’s really the only way to describe it. John Williams’ score, the cinematography by Janusz Kaminski, and the acting of Niels Arestrup (who plays a young French girl’s grandfather) saved this movie for me. But honestly one of the best part for me involves wire cutters and Joey the horse caught in barbed wire and fence posts in the no-man’s-land during a short lull of a trench battle between the Germans and the British troops. As unfunny as it seems, it was something that reminded me of the great Christmas truce of 1914 where German and British troops sang songs, buried their dead, drank, and there were even rumors of a game of football. It all showed an act of humanity in an inhuman war.
Spielberg’s newest movie is for adults, seniors and older children; the younger ones might not understand the pain the horse (Joey) must go through, nor the story of war. But if they do go to see it, they will understand the bond between humans and horses. A PG-13 rating was the correct rating. Despite its few weaknesses, I will say that it was entertaining and heartwarming and I will give it 4 out of 5 Nerdskulls for its technical accomplishments, music score and art direction; those will take home awards almost guaranteed.
Enjoy the holidays, fellow Nerds,
Great article, I was on the fence about this movie but I think you pushed me over.
Plus I can’t for the life of me figure out why I have never tried the Nachos Libre.