MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ****1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
My journey to “War Horse” is probably not as interesting or epic as the journey in “War Horse,” but it’s interesting to note. I first became aware of the film when I saw the trailer in front of the upcoming holiday movies of 2011. When I first saw it, I rolled my eyes and started to dread it. The entire thing looked like a cheesy, unnecessary film with obvious cliched “war is hell” overtones to it. We had seen movies like this before from Touchstone, including “The Alamo” and “Hidalgo,” and they tended to be soft in my opinion.
However, when I finally got a chance to see the film, I was enthralled by it, wrapped up in the majesty and splendor of it all. God bless Steven Spielberg, who knows how to push my buttons.
The story follows a horse through various owners and situations against the backdrop of World War I. It begins with the horse being sold to a boy on a farm. Then the horse is drafted to work in World War I. After significant battles, the horse makes his way across the European countryside, as the story profiles different characters throughout the war.
In a strange way, “War Horse” is exactly what I expected, but totally not what I expected. It features the grand theme of war and drama, but it also is an intimate “boy and his dog” story that lives through the horrors of that war. Instead of being a cheesy story about a horse in the sometimes silly Disney tradition, the horse is a vehicle to bring the story to different vignettes.
The greatest triumph of “War Horse” is its breathtaking cinematography, which harkens back to the rich look of “Gone with the Wind.” Taken with a powerful score by John Williams, the film captured my imagination. It’s and inspiring film with feeling of the film taps into the earlier Disney films of the 50s and 60s, sweeping sweep the viewer along with real-life drama without getting too grim. I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie.
The four-disc Blu-ray combo pack comes with two Blu-ray discs, one of which includes the brilliant transfer for the feature film. That main disc includes two featurettes: “War Horse: The Journey Home” and a look at the movie from an extra’s point of view.
The second Blu-ray disc includes an in-depth look at the film with “A Filmmaking Journey” with Steven Spielberg, “Editing and Scoring” featuring Spielberg’s long-time collaborators Michael Kahn and John Williams, “The Sounds of War Horse” about the sound design and “Through the Producer’s Lens” which takes a look at the photographic journey of producer Kathleen Kennedy.
Additional discs in the pack include the DVD which features “War Horse: The Look” featurette and a Digital Copy disc.