War Horse - Blu-ray Review

'by the close, a lengthy one-hundred and forty-six minutes later, the early promise of luscious scenery and a comedy duck seems to have faded'

An adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's novel, War Horse sees Steven Spielberg go back to routes trodden before, as an anthropomorphised being (this time a horse) is taken away from his childhood 'friend' (this time Jeremy Irvine), who embarks on a non-literal journey to find him. Yes, this is E.T., with more emphasis on the part where Elliott looks like he's going to lose the funny little alien, more war and a hell of a lot more horse.

Clearly there are major differences in the plotting but for those looking for a touchstone, War Horse is Spielberg's return to that childhood tale of innocence vs maturity, and finding a friend in the oddest of places (and species). Joey (the horse) may have four legs and a tail but Albert (Irvine) is partnered to him irreversibly from very early doors when his drunk father Ted (Peter Mullan) wastes the family kitty (not a literal kitty) on him at auction.

Where War Horse begins to differ in terms of execution from E.T. is in just how stunningly uninspiring the whole piece proves. Where John Williams' score parped gaily around the alien adventures here his music wanders lackadaisically through uninspired scene framing. It feels mundane, very un-Spielberg, a bit like we're treading through the muddy water of a Devonshire field.

Which isn't to say that War Horse constantly fails to excite or touch on notes of emotion. There are beautiful moments and several successful wrings of the heart-strings. The fantastically shot opening scenes, high on beautiful plains will have you wanting to sing Jerusalem, as England's green and pleasant lands are presented gloriously by a master purveyor of moving image and Janusz Kaminski's lovely cinematography.

But, sadly, by the close, a lengthy one-hundred and forty-six minutes later, the early promise of luscious scenery and a comedy duck seems to have faded. You're left with a piece whose every move is mundanely predictable and whose efforts to squeeze teardrops from you leaves it in glum emotional squalor for the most part. It's not a terrible film - not by any means - but for the talents involved it is a disappointingly functional one.

E.T. gets its 20th Anniversary Blu-ray release in October and will rightly once again find itself discussed in glowing terms. War Horse does not have the feeling of something that will last that long, nor inspire such reverence and whilst the comparison may seem harsh, Spielberg is a director good enough to be held up to the monumental achievements of his past successes.

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