WAR HORSE Blu-ray Review

     April 5, 2012


Steven Spielberg had two movies come out within days of each other at the end of 2011, and it’s weird how neither got the attention they deserved. War Horse was the best picture-nominated of the two, but the film made less than $80 Million at the box office. It deserved better, and now the film is on Blu-ray to be discovered. Jeremy Irvine stars alongside a horse in an episodic film about how his equine pal Joey goes through World War I. Our review of War Horse on Blu-ray follows after the jump.

war horse jeremy irvineIf War Horse has a big flaw, it’s that it’s told like a bio-pic, and so it starts with the birth of Joey. He’s purchased by Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan) in defiance of his landlord Lyons (David Thewlis), which disappoints his wife Rose (Emily Watson). But his son Albert (Irvine) wants to raise the horse as own, and trains him well. But as war comes Ted sells the horse to Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston), where he competes with Major Jamie Stewart’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) horse Blackthorn. They enter into a raid on a German camp that sends Joey into the German’s hands. From there he meets the Germans, and a French family (headed up by Niels Arestrup), and then is put into slave labor.

Point blank, Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest working directors (and at this point one of the greats, period), and his craftsmanship with War Horse makes this something special to watch. He’s definitely thinking in terms of John Ford’s Ireland, and there’s some David Lean in there, and definitely some of Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front in terms of the action. But he’s such a masterful director that it’s more than just homage. Make no mistake, though, he’s doing old school war filmmaking at its finest.

war-horse-posterThe opening sequences are a little too long, there’s a sense of getting through the set-up, which has Joey doing amazing stunts, and he and Albert bonding. It takes over forty minutes for the horse to get to war, but it’s not a deal-breaker. Once the horse is in war, the movie comes to life, and the ensemble cast (which also includes Toby Kebbell and Eddie Marsan) are all great. Spielberg understands the sweeping vistas and how to stage an amazing war sequence, so even though the narrative is a little old fashioned, everything moves. Perhaps it didn’t connect because it is so much a throwback, and perhaps it doesn’t have the immediacy or brilliance of restaging that came with Saving Private Ryan. But it’s still such a strong, great work by Spielberg that it deserves to be found.

Buena Vista/Dreamworks’s release presents the film in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio. It’s an immaculate presentation, and the format does the film a great service. The Blu-ray comes in a four disc set, which offers the film on Blu-ray, a second disc with supplements, and a DVD and digital copy. On disc one there are two featurettes: “War Horse: The Journey Home” (20 min.) gathers Kebbell, Watson, Irvine, Hiddleston and Watson in one group, editor Michael Kahn, costume designer Joanna Johnston, writer Richard Curtis, production designer Rick Carter, and DP Janusz Kamisnki in the other, with Spielberg and producer Kathleen Kennedy in both for a chance to talk about the making of the film, and “An Extra’s Point of View” (3 min.), which shows how one extra worked every day on the shoot.

Disc two feels anemic for a Blu-ray set. The meat is “A Filmmaking Journey” (64 min.), which covers every aspect of the making of the film, and is a solid behind the scenes look. “Editing & Scoring” (9 min.) explores Spielberg’s relationship with Kahn and composer John Williams. “The Sounds Of War Horse” (7 min.) gives Sound Designer Gary Rydstrom credit for his work, while “Through The Producer’s Lens” (4 min.) lets producer Kathleen Kennedy Shareher on set photos. The content itself is good, but I don’t know why they didn’t put all the supplements on Disc Two and max out the bit rate on the first disc. Likely it’s because there’s also a two-disc set that comes with the first disc Blu-ray and a DVD copy.

Around The Web

Latest News

George Miller’s Abandoned JUSTICE LEAGUE Movie Getting the Documentary Treatment

Australian filmmaker Ryan Unicomb will direct a documentary exploring the DC Universe that might have been.

Director Gil Kenan Talks POLTERGEIST, Why He Made the Film, and Future Projects

Plus, Kenan talks about knowing he'd face criticism no matter how good the film ended up.

JURASSIC WORLD: New Featurette Welcomes You to the Park with Tons of New Footage

"To see 'Jurassic World' come to life is like seeing 'Jurassic Park' come true."

Cary Fukunaga Will Not Direct Stephen King’s IT for New Line

Reasons ranging from the poor box office take of 'Poltergeist' to plain old budget cuts have been cited.

3 New ANT-MAN Images Size up Paul Rudd, Michael Doulgas, and Evangeline Lilly

Marvel’s next film is less than two months away.

9 Movies You Forgot Were Scored by Hans Zimmer

One of the best composers of our time has a resume that's both extensive and versatile, ranging from 'Cool Runnings' to 'Mission: Impossible 2'.

FANTASTIC FOUR International Trailer Brings New Footage; Josh Trank Denies Reshoot Rumors

The director takes to social media to debunk troubled word on the upcoming blockbuster.

More THE MARTIAN Images Feature Matt Damon Surviving Ridley Scott’s Red Planet

The upcoming film also stars Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, and Jeff Daniels.

DHEEPAN Review | Cannes 2015

Jacques Audiard's latest film won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Bad Weekend: The Last 10 Memorial Day Movies, Ranked

It turns out most Memorial Day movies aren’t very good.

Page 1 of 3,96412345...102030...Last »