War Horse  [Blu-ray] [UK Release] SPIELBERG’S FINEST WORK – A MASTERPIECE!
From director Steven Spielberg comes the epic adventure of War Horse, and is a tale of incredible loyalty, hope and tenacity set against the sweeping canvas of World War I. Based on the best-selling book of British author Michael Morpurgo's 1982 children's novel of the same name set before and during World War I and award-winning stage production, this deeply heartfelt story begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and his young trainer Albert. When they are forced apart by war, and we follow Joey’s extraordinary journey as he changes and inspires the lives of everyone he meets. Filled with spectacularly rich visuals – and complete with a never-before-seen bonus feature – War Horse is “epic family entertainment” [Film 2012] and one of the most powerful and moving stories of friendship ever told.
FILM FACT: The film was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, two Golden Globe Awards and five BAFTAs.
Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Céline Buckens, Toby Kebbell, Patrick Kennedy, Leonard Carow, David Kross, Matt Milne, Robert Emms, Eddie Marsan, Nicolas Bro, Rainer Bock, Hinnerk Schönemann, Geoff Bell, Liam Cunningham, Gerard McSorley, Tony Pitts, Pip Torrens, Philippe Nahon, Julian Wadham, David Dencik, Edward Bennett, Johnny Harris, Tam Dean Burn and Maximilian Brückner
Director: Steven Spielberg
Producers: Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy
Screenplay: Lee Hall and Richard Curtis
Composer: John Williams
Cinematography: Janusz Kamiński
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English: 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Descriptive, English: 2.0 Dolby Digital and French: 7.1 DTS-HD HR
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Nederland, Swedish, Norwegian, Denmark, Suomi, Iceland and Russian
Running Time: 146 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review – Despite its sweeping visuals and epic scale, Steven Spielberg's ‘War Horse’ remains focused on its equine hero, Joey, as he travels throughout France and Germany during World War I. Despite its sweeping visuals and epic scale, Steven Spielberg's ‘War Horse’ remains focused on its equine hero, Joey, as he travels throughout France and Germany during World War I. Adapted from Michael Morpurgo's children's novel, War Horse bounces between the characters and settings Joey encounters as a British Cavalry horse, and Spielberg captures the horrors and beauty of the period landscape. War Horse is classic filmmaking; dramatic and sentimental, with heartache and triumph for its characters. The toll of war on Europe is sometimes overlooked outside of a few startling scenes of violence, which dampers the film's resonance some, but War Horse supplements its narrative creaks with earnest storytelling.
Farmer Ted Narracott [Peter Mullan]) buys a thoroughbred at auction despite being told the horse will never pull a plough. Ted's wife, Rose [Emily Watson], demands he return the horse, but his son, Albert [Jeremy Irvine], promises to train the horse, which he names Joey. Ted is haunted by memories of his time in South African during the Second Boer War, and turns to the bottle for relief, leaving Joey and Rose responsible for paying the rent. In a rousing early scene, Albert gets Joey to plough a rocky field and saves the family's farm from vindictive landlord Lyons [David Thewlis]. The good luck eventually dries up, and Ted sells Joey to Calvary officer Capt. Nicholls [Tom Hiddleston], who promises to look after Joey and return him to Albert after the war.
Violence fills Joey's first months at war, as the British quickly learn their traditional battle charges are futile against a hail of machine-gun bullets. Although Joey cannot speak, War Horse follows the horse across Europe, where he meets soldiers and civilians alike. In the possession of German troops, Joey encounters young soldiers Gunther [David Kross] and Michael [Leonard Carow], who foolishly desert to save their lives. Joey meets fragile Emilie [Celine Buckens] and her grandfather [Niels Arestrup], who live on a farm near the German front. The story later moves forward several years, and Joey continues to suffer under the harsh German command. ‘War Horse’ glimpses battle from many angles, and, while the big picture is never captured, it succeeds at portraying the hardship and loss of war at a personal level.
Steven Spielberg released two very different films in 2011: Motion-capture animated film ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ and ‘War Horse,’ which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. The Adventures of Tintin is breathless fun, but War Horse is more traditional filmmaking. Steven Spielberg captures the landscape and frames the actors in beautiful scenery that was filmed in the on location on Dartmoor in Devon. On top of all that the ilming of ‘War Horse’ began with the cavalry scenes being filmed at Stratfield Saye House in North Hampshire, the estate of the Duke of Wellington, where incidentally Wellington's war horse Copenhagen is buried.
Every shot is beautifully composed and framed, and film buffs should appreciate Spielberg's mastery of his craft. Albert eventually enlists and fights with the British in the Second Battle of the Somme, where soldiers hide from German guns and bombs in mud-soaked trenches. Albert enlisted for his country and for Joey, who he hopes to see again.
Before its film adaptation, Michael Morpurgo's story was turned into a successful London stage production that used life-sized puppets for the horses. The material is suited for that medium, which allows an audience to focus on the core story without demanding a visual depiction of all the surrounding events. As a film, War Horse is nimble and mostly satisfying, but at times lacks this context. War Horse is sad because a horse suffers greatly, yet millions of people died in World War I. Steven Spielberg provides glimpses of the tragedy, but overlooks most of the fallout. After the first hour, Albert gets too little screen time to earn much sympathy, but Joey is the real hero anyway. Joey is the most charismatic and developed character in War Horse, and that makes the film a success.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The 2.40:1 aspect ratio 1080p encoded transfer for ‘War Horse’ complements Steven Spielberg's sharp directorial eye and the beautiful cinematography from Janusz Kaminski. Detail is excellent, and Spielberg's frequent deep-focus shots stretch for miles. Close-ups reveal every facial detail, sweat bead and dried patch of mud on the tired soldiers, as well as Joey's chocolate coat. Colours are bold and lush, and rotate from the fertile greens and reds of rural France to the harsh greys and blacks of the German war zone. Blacks are solid and do not crush and ‘War Horse’ appear at all times film-like. No compression artefacts appear, and the only hiccup to report is some very slight aliasing.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack supports the thunderous chaos of war, with excellent range and dynamic clarity. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and directional dialogue is frequent. The 7.1 mix is immersive and expertly designed to place the viewer amid the environment on screen. Ambient effects surround the viewer, and action effects rumble throughout the sound field and awaken the subwoofer. Machine gun fire ricochets around the room, horses gallop and rattle the floor, and panicked voices pan through the rear and front speakers. This is an excellent mix, and the fantastic range means quiet scenes are just as powerful.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
War Horse: The Journey Home [HD] [20:00] Director Steven Spielberg hosts two roundtable discussions; one with the film's cast, the other with key members of the creative team and crew. Each half of the twenty-minute documentary has been edited and condensed into bite-sized chats and a decision that will no doubt leave some grumbling, but the carefully selected comments that remain offer welcome insight into the production, Spielberg's intentions, the characters and performances, the script and story, the horses and their training, the power of the film's themes, and more.
An Extra’s Point of View [HD] [3:00] Meet Martin D. Dew, extraordinaire. He not only appears several times in the film, he worked almost every day of principal photography, filling the boots of British and German soldiers.
Finally, War Horse has old-fashioned sensibilities, but its equine hero's struggles under British and German leadership during World War I are timeless. Steven Spielberg shoots across Europe and captures the beauty and horrors of the war-torn landscape as war horse Joey bounces between various riders and strangers. War Horse occasionally misses the big picture and fallout of war, but its voiceless lead is a compelling protagonist. The Blu-ray features excellent picture and sound and some great extras. But I must warn you that by the end of the awesome spectacular film, you will use up all your Kleenex tissues, as you will get emotionally drained and makes you feel how lucky that you did not have to experience the horrors of World War I, especially as it is now over 100 years when it began and the film certainly shows the horror of war and how pointless in the end these conflicts to not solve anything and too many people die needless for what, especially for the country that starts these wars and to sum up even more, I am again so proud to add another Steven Spielberg DreamWorks to my Blu-ray Collection. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
Spielberg's Warhorse stands as a testament to good old fashioned family filmmaking. Based on the 1982 children's book by Michael Morpurgo, the film tells the story of Joey, a thoroughbred foal who is purchased at an auction by Ted (Peter Mullan), an irresponsible and foolishly proud farmer who seeks to spite Mr. Lyons (David Thewlis) who threatens to claim the farm if rent is not paid by autumn. Ted convinces Lyons that he will be able to use Joey to plow a rock-filled field and plant a crop, ensuring a sale and the payment of rent. Things do not work out as planned, however, and Ted is forced to sell Joey to James Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston), a World War I army Captain, much to the devastation of Ted's son Albert (Jeremy Irvine), who has grown immensely attached to the horse. This sets off a chain of events where Joey crosses into the lives of several different people, including a German boy and his brother, a little girl and her grandfather, and back into the hands of the Germans under the care of a man who falls in love with Joey and his equine counterpart Topthorn. Events continue to unfold until Joey finds himself injured on a battlefield, forcing two of the most unlikely men to put aside their differences and work together for the sake of the innocent animal, finally allowing him to return to the company of his original owner, Albert, in the film's most emotional scene.
Warhorse is a melting pot of several different themes; some tragic, and others triumphant. As such, the film becomes locked in a battle with itself as to whether it should be a gritty portrayal of wartime atrocities, or the redemptive qualities of the human heart and spirit. By crossing into the lives of so many different people, Joey sees both the good and evil that lie in each of us, and the potential for human achievement, rather than destruction. It's a strangely poignant juxtaposition of themes that lead to an appropriate sense of viewer confusion, almost on purpose. Warhorse tries very hard to show that sometimes your enemy doesn't want to be your enemy, and instead has the same hopes and dreams as anyone else. The tragic moments in the film are countered by the good, making Warhorse a film that swings back and forth like a pendulum. Director Steven Spielberg injects his natural sense of childlike wonder onto the film, while sneaking in elements of a more sinister nature at the same time. It's not shockingly brutal like Saving Private Ryan, nor is it as family-oriented as E.T. Instead, Warhorse falls somewhere in the middle, aimed appropriately at a higher age demographic in love with movies of this type. As such, there's a certain level of sap that runs through each frame, trying very hard to pull at the heartstrings in an uncharacteristically forced manner. Most audiences will be able to figure out where the story is heading, even if they hadn't read the book. Despite that shortfall, Warhorse should be appreciated for being so simplistic in it's goal of tugging tears out of ducts, and the scene showing Joey reunited with Albert is impossible to watch without getting a huge lump in your throat. This creates a conundrum. Do we bash the film for its silly sweetness, or should we be rooting for more of these movies to come out?
On Blu-Ray, Warhorse retains its magical feel thanks to a pristine AVC transfer, ensuring proper levels of black with the appropriate amount of saturation that never strays too far. The Blu-Ray transfer is appropriately helped along by the film's gorgeous and breathtaking scenery. Spielberg shot the move in several locations around Dartmoor; a truly fitting selection that shines on Blu-Ray. The DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio soundtrack is, to no surprise, wonderful, enrapturing the viewer with John Williams' remarkable and uplifting musical score, while fitting dialog at a listenable level on the center channel, freeing up the remaining channels for all the tweets, whistles, rain and explosions of the open world environments that the film is set in. There's around 2 hours of bonus features as well, including some standard-issue documentaries. It's a nice, complete package that will no doubt be double-dipped in the (near) future, but kudos should be given to Dreamworks for being so generous on the first release.
Even if horses aren't your thing, Warhorse should still be watched. It's less about Joey, and more about the people around him who become inspired by his unspoken courage and unbreakable spirit. Unlike humans, animals are never evil, and Warhorse proves that despite our technological and intellectual advancements, we still have much to learn about being kind towards one another, and living in peace and harmony as nature would have intended.