Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Video review: "War Horse"

"War Horse" got an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture -- plus five other nods -- but little real love. Box office receipts were respectable but hardly stratospheric. The film won virtually none of the various awards for which it was nominated.

The best way to describe the reception given to "War Horse" was one of respectful indifference.

While hardly one of Steven Spielberg's best directorial efforts, "War Horse" certainly deserves better than the miserly regard it's been afforded. It's a lush family drama, sad but redemptive, the sort of ambitious old-fashioned movie-making not seen in great quantities for at least half a century.

As a bonus, the musical score, by constant Spielberg companion John Williams, is one of his best in years.

The star of the story is Joey, a brilliantly fast and spirited horse from England who becomes the object of affection for a variety of people leading up to and during World War I. At first he's the ward of Albert (Jeremy Irvine), a poor farm boy, but then Joey is conscripted into the British cavalry.

As the years roll by and the horrors mount up, Joey's fortunes change as often as the landscape, from rolling French countryside to the nightmarish labyrinth of trench warfare.

Even though the film lacks anything resembling suspense, it's still a fantastically emotional ride.

Video extras are good, though there's a wide chasm between the single-disc DVD edition and the top-of-the-line Blu-ray/DVD combo.

The DVD comes with a single featurette, "War Horse: The Look," which concentrates on how Spielberg and his crew achieved the suffused, painterly look of the film.

Upgrade to the two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo, and you add two more features. There's a making-of documentary featuring Spielberg and all the cast, and a featurette about the making of the movie from the perspective of an extra.

Go for the four-disc package, and there are four more featurettes. "A Filmmaking Journey" concentrates on Spielberg's artistic journey making the movie. Another focuses on producer and longtime Spielberg collaborator Kathleen Kennedy, including her personal on-set photographs. Two more featurettes focus on editing and scoring, and sound effects.

Movie: B-plus
Extras: B

1 comment:

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