'War Horse' - A Perfect Movie for the Season

By: Mike McCrann

If ever there was a holiday movie to see, it is War Horse, Steven Spielberg's magnificent film based on the popular children's book and current stage spectacle. Check your cynicism at the door and let this gorgeous film fable wash over you. Yes, Spielberg is schmaltzy. Yes, there is an animal who stars. But War Horse packs enough genuine emotion to wring tears from the frigid, and that's because it contains many great elements.

A Great Cast
Headed by dreamy Jeremy Irvine in his screen debut, backed up by Emily Watson and a cast of sexy English actors like sexy Tom Hiddleston (the bad brother in Tron) and Benedict Cumberbatch (the gay spy in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). Davis Kross (the boy in The Reader) also has a sensational turn as Gunther, the German soldier who tries to save his brother.

An Uplifting Story
It's about a poor English family and their horse Joey, who are tossed into the insane carnage of World War I. And yet it does have an incredibly feel-good sensibility to it.

Fantastic Craftsmanship
Janusz Kaminski's cinematography is clearly the best of the year. The end scenes look like an homage to Scarlett O'Hara's "I'll never be hungry again!" strip technicolor sequence from the first half of Gone With the Wind. Kaminski stated in American Cinematographer that they wanted this scene to look "glorious and totally fake" because it's such a heroic and mystical moment. Kaminski deserves this year's Academy Award as the film is a glorious visual treat.

Incredible Direction
Steven Spielberg has been making popular epics for over 30 years, and War Horse is directed in the great John Ford manner. The first 40 minutes of Saving Private Ryan showed the 1944 landing at the Normandy beaches in all their horror and splendor. The war scenes in War Horse are no less impressive, especially the British troops on horseback emerging from the gorgeous countryside only to be ambushed by the Germans. The one bad segment is the 15-minutes with the Frenchman, played by the great Niels Arestrup, and his young granddaughter. The actress playing this part is so totally terrible, both in accent and acting, that you cannot believe that Spielberg, the great director of children could have chosen this child let alone did not see how bad she was.

War Horse is Old Fashioned
I mean that in the best sense of the word. Spielberg has no equal when it comes to emotionally direct filmmaking. His camera moves into the heart of every scene and captures the inherent sentiment. Joey the horse (actually played by 5 different animals) and beautiful young Irvine will capture your heart. Go see War Horse and don't be ashamed of the honest tears you will shed. The movie is uplifting and in the finest tradition of really great "feel good" movies.