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War Horse  : Joey doesn’t quite gallop
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Steven Spielburg
Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Jeremy Irivine
A sensitive tale, it’s love at first sight between master and horse, with World War 1 causing turmoils of separation. Finally, the horse emerges victorious, in spite of being on both sides of the war, as he reunites with this beloved master.

The plot: Young Albert (Jeremy Irivine) takes over the charge of preventing his farm from being taken away by haughty landlord Lyons (David Thewlis), when Albert’s father Ted (Peter Mullan) can’t cough up the rent. Joey (the horse) seemed like a costly mistake made by Albert’s father who bought him for an exorbitant amount. But he turns out to be their greatest saviour in testing times, as Albert trains him to plough the rocky lands and develops a beautiful bond with him en route. Their fabulous equation is put to the test by circumstances, but life takes a full circle for them when they find each other after the war. The reunion happens in a very unexpected manner and they get closer than ever before, greeting each other like old lost buddies.

The good: The warm, loving bond between a horse and a young lad is a different concept and a treat to watch and experience.  The film gathers a lot of laughs with some really funny dialogues and a fairly consistent screenplay by Richard Curtis and Lee Hall which keep it light, in spite of going through the intricacies of emotions.  War Horse has some amazing captures of the countryside by Janusz Kaminiski, who brilliantly shows us the pre-World War countryside while allowing glimpses of the war itself.  Certain scenes like the one where the horse ends up in no-man’s land and entangles himself in the barbed wires show the proficiency of the veteran director. Even the scene where Albert is trying to put the harness on Joey literally tugs your heart and emits the warmth of their relationship.

The bad: The plot comes from a play which was based on a children’s book by Micheal Morpurgo. Despite a sweet concept, the film trips up with too many characters intermittently cropping up. They’re neither developed well nor do they have a vital role to play in the film which makes it all irrelevant.

The film sometimes loses track of where it’s going as Albert comes on and off without making much of an impact. In the sense, before he can make his presence felt he disappears and the story follows a maze which distracts its focus and pace at times. The film has been over stretched as it drags on with the war scenes which drift away from the topic and the bond which is the focus of the plot. Trimming the length of a few scenes prior to interval could have kept it crisp yet touching.

Overall: But the film has its moments and does touch the right emotional chords. It doesn’t quite succeed in giving Joey the personality he deserved. Lost irretrievably is the powerful impact which such an ace director and such a sentimental journey could have given War Horse. Definitely a bond worth a watch.

– Pooja Thakkar

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