War Horse' hammers home the emotions (戰馬)
By Christy Lemire
February 17, 2012, 3:45 pm TWN
Just in time for the family-friendly holiday is Steven Spielberg's sweeping, historical epic "War Horse."
It's a story that began life as a children's book by Michael Morpurgo, then made its way to the London and New York stages to great acclaim featuring inventive puppetry, and now arrives in theaters with all the grandeur a master filmmaker can conjure. "War Horse" features a strong cast and the sort of impeccable production values you would expect from Spielberg — that trademark, mystical lighting, the product of his longtime collaboration with Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.
And yet it's overlong, painfully earnest and sometimes even hokey. Clearly, Spielberg intended "War Horse" as a throwback, a homage to good, old-fashioned, heartrending storytelling, full of recognizable types and uplifting themes. The skies are so impossibly colorful in such a retro way, they look like hand-painted backdrops on a soundstage. And the dialogue is so frequently on-the-nose and repetitive, it might just make you cringe.
Yes, the horse is remarkable — of course he is — that's why they made a movie about him. That should have been obvious to us through the action alone, yet the script (from Lee Hall and Richard Curtis) feels the need to tell us again and again that he is a "remarkable" horse.
The majestic Joey comes into the lives of a struggling British farming family just before World War I. The alcoholic father (Peter Mullan) buys him at auction, even though he knows he can't afford him; the long-suffering mother (Emily Watson) insists he return him and get the family's money back. But plucky teenager Albert (good-looking newcomer Jeremy Irvine) begs to keep him and promises to train him. Cue the montage.