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WAR HORSE (2011)


A story of friendship between a boy and a horse… It’s a little cheesy, yes. But unlike the sterile New Year’s Eve, this is good old fashioned melting cheese that actually complements the story. That is because is War Horse, there is truth and soul and Steven Spielberg makes it feel genuine. He makes us travel through a war that was unfair and unforgiving, a war where the gentle and innocent didn’t survive. This is shown through the most candid and unbiased eyes of all, those of a horse, Joey. He shows us that no matter what side one is on (English or German, army or civilian), the cruelty of the war affects everyone. In the end, love and friendship are the only redeeming values that remains, that give both people and horses their drive and save Joey in the end.

The characters of the story all feel slightly too one-dimensional but that is because they all serve one purpose and generally have limited screen time. However, they are so well drawn out and well acted that their fates are often heartbreaking.

The cinematography and mise-en-scène are sumptuous. They make the war scenes appear at times eery, overwhelming or terrifying in opposition to the generally peaceful village where Joey and Albert (Jeremy Irvine) become friends.

Occasional touches of humour lighten the film which, unlike the beginning of Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998) is never shocking or explicitly violent. War Horse is simply a positive film that will be a pleasure to watch as you reflect on the value of humanity and how too much of it was wasted in war.




Oh dear, does it get more cheesy than that? You may think, well cheese never hurt anybody, especially during the holidays. You’d be right, the film is completely and utterly harmless, but it also kind of feels a bit patronising. The lack of soul and substance in this film is palpable. Samuel Johnson wrote that “the value of every story depends on it being true”. I don’t think Gary Marshall, the cast or the considerable amount of sponsors this film had believed there was any worldly truth in this story.

The cast features anyone that, one can guess, was available to make easy money: from multi-Academy award winners (Robert DeNiro and Hilary Swank) to pop stars (Ludacris and Jon Bon Jovi). However, none of them provide a good performance. Maybe because they couldn’t be bothered considering they were being payed a huge sum of money regardless, maybe because the corny writing didn’t allow them to, maybe because no one cared if they were good as long as they their names were printed at the top of the bill. In fact, the filmmakers know that we are watching fake, one dimensional characters. They just want us to remember that they are played by nice, fun-loving and playful celebrities, and to remind us of that: they added bloopers! – Arguably the best part of the movie… Certainly better than Hilary Swank’s cringeworthy speech on the real meaning of New Years Eve.

The whole movie, conveniently set for the most part in Time Square, is one big advertising billboard that audiences are invited to pay for. Few frames of New Years Eve don’t contain product or billboard placement. The cast were a bunch of endorsers, there only to encourage viewers to consume more during New Year’s Eve (one should not stop once Christmas is over!) and maybe also visit New York (cause New Year’s Eve is obviously ruined if one does not see the ball drop!) – and you know what, it probably worked on some level, because that year I went to New York, saw the darn ball and yeah I felt proud!

Picture to prove it? why certainly, and with more billboards!:

Unfortunately, for as long as there will be audiences for celebrities (not actors), there will be an audience for films like this one, so after Love Actually, Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, we can probably look forward to Easter Monday, Mother’s Day and Secretary’s Day. Because in the end, isn’t every Hallmark holiday about forgetting all your troubles and being with your loved ones? (No, not consuming… Shut up at the back!)

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