War Horse

Rated NR 2011

A boy, a horse, and Steven Spielberg. That’s a dangerous combination. Director Spielberg displays his best and worst tendencies in this gorgeous, ridiculous story, aka The Horse That Won World War I. An English country lad named Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) raises his four-footed pal Joey only to see the horse sold to an army officer and shipped to France to help fight the Germans. So begins a movie that replicates MGM in the Thirties and Forties, with some of Spielberg’s finest action sequences (the cavalry charge, the No Man’s Land scene, etc.) trading blows with some of the corniest moments shown on a big screen since Louis B. Mayer died. The screenplay by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis, adapting Michael Morpurgo’s novel, is borderline workable. The acting, especially by such as David Thewlis, Liam Cunningham, and Benedict Cumberbatch in smaller roles, is fine – but watch out for Peter Mullan and Emily Watson as Albert’s parents. The thing that sinks War Horse is Spielberg’s unbridled propensity for mawkishness and overstatement, plus his excessively visual sensibility, in which nothing escapes un-illustrated. It’s a child’s point of view, and this is a child’s movie in every sense of the word. (146 min.)

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