Reel Reviews

War Horse - Blu-ray Review

{2jtab: Movie Review}

War Horse - Blu-ray Review

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5 Stars

War Horse is a beautifully shot throwback to another era of filmmaking.  Sentimental in style and full of clichés it wholeheartedly rides straight into the sunset, this World War I epic about a boy and his horse could have easily been made in the 1950s.  It’s wide-eyed idealism darkened by the scope of war with famed director Steven Spielberg behind the lens.  Epics don’t easily come and fade from the horizon and, while War Horse may not be penultimate statement on war from Spielberg, it certainly has a John Ford-swagger and keyed-in moments of a pure classic that’ll make this the go-to feature for families.

Focusing more on the earth than the sky, War Horse is a film about changing landscapes told through the eyes of a horse named Joey.  From its dirt poor farming origins to the shackles of war, Spielberg keeps this adaptation of Michael Morpugo’s young adult novel grounded in modesty and a steady eye that shows how war takes everything from everyone.

Joey begins his life on a family farm in Devon, England, but – under the cruelty of an oppressive landowner (David Thewlis) and a perpetually drunken father (Pete Mullen)  – is conscripted into service with the British through a soldier (Tom Hiddleston) and stolen by the Germans.  Saved by Belgian girl (Cecile Buckens) and taken again by the Germans, Joey moves from shifting landscape to shifting landscape as his original owner, a youth named Albert (Jeremy Irvine), spends four years looking for him.

Sound fantastical?  Sure.  This is a saccharine sprinkled tale that is made more memorable with the restraint Spielberg shows, allowing only enough information to pass the front of the lens as needed in order for you to understand its purpose.  Nothing is explained.  No details are mouthed.  Images flicker across the screen and they are enough to impress the frailty of the human condition and the connections that are nourished.

This is Spielberg in his comfort zone.  Charming and rustic, War Horse is a magnificent mood piece that meditates more than it moves.  That’s not to say the film is dry, but when the lead of the narrative is a horse and the comic relief is provided by a goose, one’s sense of what’s what in a narrative must be altered.

John Williams provides the sweeping score and Janusz Kaminski provides the images.  War Horse is a great example of the transporting power of film and a good material fit for Spielberg.  While destruction is pushed to the front, the gentle heart of War Horse will win you over time and time again.

{2jtab: Film Details}

War Horse - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of war violence.
Director
: Steven Spielberg
Writer
: Lee Hall, Richard Curtis
Cast: Jeremy Irvine; Emily Watson; Tom Hiddleston; Benedict Cumberbatch; Peter Mullan
Genre: Drama | War
Tagline:
Separated by war. Tested by battle. Bound by friendship.
Memorable Movie Quote: "We'll be alright Joey. We're the lucky ones, you and me. Lucky since the day I met you."
Distributor:
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Official Site: www.warhorsemovie.com
Release Date: August 20, 2011
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
April 3, 2012

Synopsis: From director Steven Spielberg comes "War Horse," an epic adventure for audiences of all ages. Set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War, War Horse begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. When they are forcefully parted, the film follows the extraordinary journey of the horse as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets—British cavalry, German soldiers, and a French farmer and his granddaughter—before the story reaches its emotional climax in the heart of No Man's Land.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

War Horse - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

4 stars



Blu-ray Experience
4.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - April 3, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); French: DTS-HD HR 7.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Four-disc set (2 BDs, 2 DVDs); Digital copy (on disc); DVD copy
Region Encoding: Region Free

Presented in a wonderfully layered 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer, War Horse is a true delight.  Colors are sweeping and never jagged with hard or abrupt lines.  Colors are stylistically muted in some landscapes and bold and ripe with saturation in others.  The images are charged with Janusz Kaminski's cinematography and race with clean contrast levels.  Black levels are solid and consistently thick with purpose and definition.  Detail is sharp throughout revealing textures in horse hides and manes.  The sound is presented in a rich DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track that displays an engaged and intelligent sound design.  Cross-channel effects are used smartly and bold bass levels are achieved during dynamic war scenes.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None.  Weak, Disney, weak.

Special Features:

While focused on the production of the film, there is a slight gap in the adaptation that the special features leave out.  An oversight, yes, but the supplementals are pretty interesting.  The supplemental material opens with two roundtable discussions.  It’s obviously mined from longer discussions, but the resulting 20 minutes gives viewers a good look   ): into the production, Spielberg's intentions, the characters and more.  In another featurette, the focus point is extra Martin Dew who worked as an extra soldier (both British and German) for every single day of the shoot.  The whole production gets highlighted in an engrossing hour-long overview.  This one is a definite plus as it gives insight into the ways and means of Spielberg’s direction, the locations of the film, horse and human character arcs, and battles.  Editor Michael Kahn and composer John Williams discuss their efforts in another featurette and producer Kathleen Kennedy shares her production photos in another.  The final one deals with the amazing sound design in the final special feature.

  • ‘War Horse’: The Journey Home (20 min)
  • An Extra's Point of View (3 min)
  • A Filmmaking Journey (HD, 64 min)
  • Editing & Scoring (9 min)
  • Through the Producer's Lens (4 min)
  • The Sounds of ‘War Horse’ (7 min)

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