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Young Albert enlists to serve in World War I after his beloved horse is sold to the cavalry. Albert's hopeful journey takes him out of England and across Europe as the war rages on. From very early in the feature, I could tell that the movie was trying very hard to be as sentimental and heartfelt as possible. However, this isn't something that a movie should be trying too hard to accomplish. When a filmmaker tries too hard to achieve this goal, it ends up coming across as a bit hokey. While the plots that you may read about are true involving Albert, the movie primarily centers around the horse that has been sold to the cavalry. The horse continues to be sold, stolen, and finding an escape across the lands where the war is unfolding. There are a lot of characters that the horse comes in contact with, which is how the film continues to transition from person to person. Despite the fact that it tries too hard to be emotional, a lot of the dialogue truly is well-written. There are even some moments that are actually genuine and the foot is taken a bit off the emotional petal. Once the movie gets started, there are certainly some interesting sequences. It's an intriguing plot that the war is being told from the horse's perspective and we're seeing how it affects people from all sides of the war. When it comes to Albert, I wasn't too fond of his character. While I hear that the relationship between Albert and the horse is absolutely touching in the novel, I felt an emotional gap in between what was occurring on screen and myself. I know that a movie isn't very captivating if it cannot hold my absolute interest. In the case of War Horse, I found myself constantly checking my clock to see how much longer it would be until the feature would be over. I have no doubt that the source material found in the novel is well-written literature, but I don't feel that the transition from book to film was successful here. There are definitely some shining moments, but they're far too few. The ending feels forced and doesn't feel in the least bit genuine or honest. A movie such as this could have gone a long way with such elements.
There are a lot of actors and characters in War Horse with a nice cast with some award nominees and winners. However, the movie transitions from character to character so much that a lot of these roles don't get very much screen time. Jeremy Irvine is Albert and delivers a good performance. He hasn't been in very many projects, but he clearly has the talent for this industry. The entire cast is fine enough as they're able to keep the stale script flowing. There are times where even some of these strong actors aren't able to save the sequence due to screenplay issues, although there are other times where they shine bright. The acting department is must better than that of the writing. While there aren't any huge roles that will define anybody's career, War Horse features an array of talented actors.
The most impressive element to War Horse, which I never doubted, is the visual department. Even if Steven Spielberg was to make some of the worst movies of all time, I believe that there would still be gorgeous visuals being displayed. In War Horse, the cinematography is absolutely stunning. From start to finish, it's very clear that a lot of effort went into how the movie would look. Especially during the war sequences, there's some brilliant work here. Towards the end, when the horse is running through the battlefield and we see all the chaos unfolding during the war, everything is orchestrated perfectly. Steven Spielberg is an expert with a film camera and he has presented some high definition perfection here. When it comes to the audio side of the disc, it's reference quality. While I'm not much of a fan of the score, the audio is the star here. The dialogue is always loud and clear and the remainder of the speakers are aggressive, yet crystal clear. The surround speakers have a large amount of information constantly being sent to them in order to deliver an immersive experience. The bass output is very powerful as it's sure to shake the entire room.
Well, it turns out that my expectations were correct. I went into this movie with an open mind, hoping to enjoy what would unfold on screen, although there are way too many issues with the script to dismiss. The characters aren't very interesting and the film tries way too hard to be emotional. It pushes so hard to be sentimental that it comes across as hokey. Fortunately, the acting is solid and the visuals are absolutely groundbreaking. However, good acting and fantastic visuals isn't all that make a good movie. I wasn't surprised to see War Horse being nominated for multiple categories due to the fact that this was Oscar Bait to begins with. I'm hoping that Steven Spielberg opens up his eyes soon and returns to the masterful filmmaking that originally got him on everybody's Hollywood radar. War Horse ultimately has an interesting premise, although it tries far too hard to be emotional along with many other serious issues with this screenplay.