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 Steven Spielberg's War Horse

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: Steven Spielberg's War Horse   Thu Jan 19, 2012 12:27 am

British children's author Michael Morpurgo wrote his 1982 book War Horse after hearing a stories from World War 1 veterans who lived in the village of Iddesleigh, Devon, where Morpurgo once lived. He heard about how the British Army had come to Iddesleigh to buy the all the horses in the village, and how one retired Captain told how close some officers depended on their horses in battle, and that of the 1 million horses sent from the UK to France during WW1, only 62,000 returned. The book did well and was nominated for a Whitbread Book Award in 1982. Morpurgo did work on a film adaptation once over, but couldn't work out how to adapt it, but it was when Nick Stafford adapted it for the theatre, using puppets to tell the story that the story became famous again. At one showing in London in February 2010, Steven Spielberg was in the audience, after it was recommended to him by his longtime producing partners Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, and Spielberg moved to tears by the play and story. He was waiting for The Adventures of Tintin to be completed, as the mo-cap was taking a long time to render, and he wanted to get a film made, and here, he found a perfect project. He had wanted to do a WW1 film, after doing several WW2 films, and he saw this had a unique approach. War Horse is a moving, beautiful and heartbreaking war film that isn't about war, it's about one magnificent animal who brings people together. It's a beautiful and upsetting experience, but one you won't forget in a hurry.

It begins shortly before WW1 broke in rural Devon, when drunken farmer Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan) buys a young horse for 30 Guineas, after getting into a petty bidding war at a market auction with landlord Mr. Lyons (David Thewlis). Ted's wife Rose (Emily Watson) is angry at him for squandering all that money on a horse, but their son Albert (Jeremy Irvine) forms a bond with the horse, and names him Joey, showing him kindness and caring for Joey, they are able to turn a barren patch of land on the farm into a turnip field, against the odds. But, after the field is ruined by bad rain, Ted sells Joey to the British Army, without telling Albert, which leaves both the boy and the horse heartbroken. The horse is taken by Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston), who is in a cavalry under Major Jamie Stewart (Benedict Cumberbatch), and Joey becomes attached to Major Stewart's horse Topthorn, a large black horse. They travel to France where their first attack is on a German camp, but after a defeat, Joey and Topthorn end up with the German's, before ending up with young French girl Emilie (Celine Buckens) and her Grandfather (Niels Arestrup), and after the German's come, Joey and Blacktop end up with them again, and Albert has now joined the war.

The story has so many connections and near-misses, that something like this would never have happened, but it works in film, but it manages to hit home hard with it's portrayal of battle in the trenches and no man's land. But, it doesn't end up being as bloody as what Saving Private Ryan was, (this is based on a children's book, remember), but Spielberg manages to keep the spirit of the book, and he gives it a nice, almost eccentric British touch as well, even for the scenes in France. It's a touching and moving portray of one animal touching people's lives, and how they're affected by Joey. From the opening scenes done in Dartmoor, it doesn't forget it's origins and where the books origins came from. It's a bright, sunny England portraying a simpler time, where an entire village comes out to watch Joey and Albert plow a lifeless field and a goose can steal the show. Razz But, the film shifts gear when it moves to France, it becomes darker, more emotional, the house of Emilie and her Grandfather has a quiet, tranquility about it, a part of France seemingly untouched by the war, only by soldiers wanting food and supplies. It translates well from book to screen, with a good screenplay by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis, who add emotion, heartbreak, honour and gentle English wit too. You can see why this has been called Spielberg's first "English" film.

It's a technically and visually beautiful film as well, with Spielberg's regular cinematographer Janusz Kamiński does some of his best work here, England is bright and sunny with sweeping camerawork, Somme is dark and muddy with some handheld camerawork. But, some of the camerawork is excellent, especially when Joey races through the trenches and then barbed wire fences and explosions of No Man's Land, it's quite amazing. A lot of scenes look like something you'd see in a classic painting, like the horses in Emilie's bedroom and the tearjerking, red-lit ending. But, what will bring a tear to many people's eyes is the epic, emotional score by the great John Williams, who has the power to make music to stir your soul and make you pay attention, here, there's alot of brass and alot of gentle, light touches to it. Even after not composing films since 2008, with Tintin and War Horse, he proves he's still got the power to enthrall audiences with music. But, the film makes alot of use of the majesty of the English countryside, from Dartmoor to Castle Combe in Wiltshire, even having it double for war torn France.

Spielberg assembled a majestic cast for this one, with newcomer Jeremy Irvine showing kindness and emotion as Albert Narracott who is emotionally attached to his horse Joey, who transforms from young boy to soldier during this film. Emily Watson shows a maternal, caring side as his mother, while Peter Mullan puts on a convincing West Country accent to play the broken, tortured father. In battle, Tom Hiddleston makes a kind and loyal Captain Nicholls to the heroic and dashing Benedict Cumberbatch, (he's gonna be huge soon). While French actor Niels Arestrup makes a kindly, caring Grandfather. There's other good support from David Thewlis as the slimey Mr. Lyons, who is always keen to put the Narracott's down, and even Toby Kebbell appears as Geordie soldier Colin from South Shields, who saves Joey from barbed wire with German soldier Peter (Hinnerk Schönemann). But the real star of the film are the 14 horses who played Joey, who make this magnificent, miraculous horse something more than special, you can pick up every emotional tick and look from Joey, how Spielberg was able to get a convincing and heartbreaking performance from all those horses is anyone's guess, but it works.



The film is a film about people touched by kindness, and the kindness that Joey receives in return. It's very, very well made and it shows that Spielberg still has the power to turn in great screen entertainment. After the animated adventure of Tintin, this is more down to earth and it feels real as well. It has it's moments of entertainment in the early scenes down on the farm and in the country, but in no-man's land, it manages to tell you a lot about military procedure and how they fought but without becoming bogged down in text-book history. It manages to find a nice ground between the two. World War 1 films are few and far between, maybe it's a difficult war to do justice on the screen, but Spielberg manages to do the Great War justice on the screen, but the war is only a background to the adventures and exploits of a horse. It's a very heartfelt film done with respect to those who fought in World War 1, and it also shows a simpler, quieter life that people used to live in the West Country and also in rural France, this deserves to be nominated for awards, and it deserves every one it wins. Spielberg has well and truly done it again, yes it is sentimental, but a story of this calibre needs to be to get it's impact across.
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PostSubject: Re: Steven Spielberg's War Horse   Thu Jan 19, 2012 8:34 am

My mum thought about maybe going to see this but she said she cried at the trailer, she'd never last the entire film.

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Frakkin toasters!

So, what, the murder weapon was a top sirloin?

He's a klutz, Mrs. Landingham. Your president's a geek!
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PostSubject: Re: Steven Spielberg's War Horse   Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:49 am

You'll cry at this too.
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PostSubject: Re: Steven Spielberg's War Horse   Thu Jan 19, 2012 12:07 pm

When I eventually get to see it, probably.

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Frakkin toasters!

So, what, the murder weapon was a top sirloin?

He's a klutz, Mrs. Landingham. Your president's a geek!
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PostSubject: Re: Steven Spielberg's War Horse   Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:07 am

Cry I did! Sad

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Frakkin toasters!

So, what, the murder weapon was a top sirloin?

He's a klutz, Mrs. Landingham. Your president's a geek!
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PostSubject: Re: Steven Spielberg's War Horse   Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:50 pm

John Williams' score and the ending got to me. Crying or Very sad
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PostSubject: Re: Steven Spielberg's War Horse   Tue Jan 24, 2012 9:14 am

The last 20 minutes or so got me and when he was running through No-Man's land, I was wincing a lot Crying or Very sad

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So, what, the murder weapon was a top sirloin?

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