Friday, May 11, 2012

"War Horse" (2011)

Steven Spielberg’s latest tale conjures up memories of Jack London’s “Call of the Wild.” That story followed the journey of an animal protagonist through various episodes on a larger adventure where several aspects of civilization and nature were explored and studied. In that tale, the reader has the benefit of seeing the thoughts and development of the dag, though. Here we simply use the device of the horse to view several vignettes of humanity. And that is what the horse ultimately is—not a character—a device. That is where a book does this sort of story better. (This film is based on a book, but I haven’t read it.)

All of that would be enough for a great story is the various aspects of humanity and war were well presented and the themes and characters were developed. As it stands, this is just a good film, not one of the greats. The mechanics are pretty flawless. (There are only a couple of times where you think you are watching animatronics.) The cinematography and music, the acting and world building are all well done.

Where the film seems to falter is in the way it always opts for syrup over substance. Even that can work; Spielberg has made a career out of telling mostly sweet tales that are often great. Here though it feels like a bit more reality could have helped the positive and hopeful aspects of the story become more powerful.

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