02 January 2012

Review: War Horse

Genre: Drama (Historical)

As a director, Steven Spielberg is a filmmaker by whose work, I can say surely, I am not infrequently offended. Never a filmmaker whose abilities for moving story-editing I doubt, he nevertheless abuses his abilities to a extent so consistent that I can't help but become viscerally charged by such adverse inclusions as that of the bookends in Saving Private Ryan (1998) and that of the core plot-point in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001). However, notwithstanding these and other egregious indulgences into the maudlin - albethey timid in comparison with some of other directors like Clint Eastwood or Ron Howard - I have to say that by this film this year I was happily not brought to the breaking point by excessive sentimentality - of which, no doubt, there was much.

War Horse then is an able-bodied, if somewhat doe-eyed, film, charming for its technical achievements that are enthrallingly good though operantly imperfect. Janusz Kaminski's cinematography, for one, is gloriously moving and well-composed, though also more than occasionally clipping by its frame and supersaturated in its hues. Portraying succinctly the thrust of the tale as well as the beauty of its original story, Mr. Kaminski's images carry and compensate for the majority of the adaptation's flaws, most of which smack of incongruities of Mr. Hall's sassy realism (see Billy Elliot, 2001) with Mr. Curtis' overt saccharinity (see Love Actually, 2003). The images are helped, certainly, by Rick Carter and Lee Sandales' cooperative artistry, realizing the world of the story in details, sets, and stages, as well as by Mr. Williams' strong, if somewhat standard, original score, tinting that same world with vibrant emotional colors that hit the vast majority of the plot-points with an experienced hand's accuracy. Further supports are the visual and the audial effects by Ben Morris and Neil Corbould and by Richard Hymns, respectively; and, stitching everything together into a mostly coherent package - despite the intractability of certain elements (e.g., the goose) - Michael Kahn (see Saving Private Ryan, 1998) makes the narrative elements tight and strong. In these ways, War Horse is itself equine: a cherishable, steady, typically flawed vehicle for relaying a message or producing a result.

For this meta-level of technical achievement, the film may indeed be one of the year's best; however, the failure of Mr. Spielberg, namely, to be "an actors director" is enough to hamper the work from true achievement, as that of its decidedly folklore-rooted (see Black Beauty, 1994, or The Secret of Kells, 2009) ends. Though charming certainly, War Horse too often has only perfunctory humanity where it should have deep, almost anthropologically redolent lives.

Grade: B+/B

Post a Comment