Film Review: War Horse Should Have Been Taken Out to the Barn and Shot

War Horse (2011) Directed by Steven Spielberg

War Horse was on my IMDB Watchlist for one reason — it was directed by Steven Spielberg. The director has given us some of the greatest films ever made, and more than a handful of my all-time favorite films. Schindler’s List. Empire of the Sun. Lincoln. ET. Amistad. Saving Private Ryan. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Raiders of the Lost Ark. And on and on. So of course I was going to want to see War Horse. What a waste of two hours and 26 minutes.

This film was more like a 1970s Disney film or an After School Special. It was so corny and predictable from start to finish. Boy meets horse. Boy loses horse. Boy finds horse again. I felt like I’d seen this story a million times before, but with a dog, or a pig, or a pigeon in the anthropomorphized lead role. No, the horse didn’t talk (he’s no Mr. Ed) but he did have a personality that made him feel more human than he is.

There were a few things I liked about War Horse. The battle scenes were cool and really well shot. Not a surprise for a director with the skills of Spielberg. And it didn’t do too bad critically, with a 76% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. But the review also included this line: “Technically superb, proudly sentimental, and unabashedly old-fashioned, War Horse is an emotional drama that tugs the heartstrings with Spielberg’s customary flair.”

That about sums it up. Yes, beautifully shot but over-the-top sentimental. Oh, and there was one little surprise for me. Scottish actor Peter Mullan played the dad in the film, and once again my mind was blown. I had no idea he was Scottish while he was playing Jacob Snell in the amazing Netflix series Ozark or James Delos in Westworld. This guy is a tremendous actor who I love and now I like him even more. How many times am I going to be blown away be a foreign actor playing an American? I mean, he plays a Brit in War Horse and I thought he was putting on the accent! Are there any good American actors left?

Next up on my Watchlist challenge: Shame (2011)

2 thoughts on “Film Review: War Horse Should Have Been Taken Out to the Barn and Shot

  1. Thanks for the heads up on “War Horse,” Len. I had the misfortune to see “Teen Spirit” at one of those sneak previews that we both like last week and I’m inclined to send it out to the barn with War Horse.

    interestingly, I was just going through my list of downloaded movies and I remember 2011 “Shame” and a description I had jotted down. I won’t give any spoilers here other than to say it’s from British film director and screenwriter Steve McQueen and has to do with sex…a lot of it, in various forms. Oddly, even though i have the movie synopsis on my computer (along with the movie), I can’t remember much of anything. This is not a disparagement…maybe it’s just a matter of having watched a lot of movies on my laptop when I didn’t have access to movie theatres. Looking forward to your review.

  2. Oh…and while I’m at it, much as I like Spielberg, I differ on “Lincoln.” Not only is it dreadfully mis-named (It should have been named “13th Amendment”), the music score, if you can call it that, by otherwise brilliant John Williams was so bland and non-memorable that one wonders if Williams simply got tired of composing for movies and decided to crank out the musical equivalent of “Towering Inferno” or “Airport”.

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