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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - April, 2012

ARTICLE INDEX

"War Horse" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Clements

movie-april-2012-war-horse

Synopsis

A British farmer named Ted Narracott purchases a spirited horse at a local auction after a tense bidding war with another suitor who just so happens to be Narracott's evil landlord.  Narracott takes the horse back to the farm where his son, Albert, also falls victim to the horse's charms.  Albert names the horse "Joey" and then sets about training him.  Albert is able to coax Joey into plowing a virgin field so the Narracotts can plant radishes, thereby saving the farm from repossession.  But the year is 1914 and war is brewing on the continent and the Narracotts are forced to sell Joey to the British Cavalry after a storm wipes out the radish crop.  Later, Albert joins the Infantry and gets foisted into battle himself.  What will become of Albert and Joey during this tumultuous time?

 

Specifications

  • Dreamworks
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 26 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup and Jeremy Irvine
  • Directed by Steven Spielberg
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Yes
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

I am a huge fan of just about any anti-war film that's ever been made and I really loved the basic message behind War Horse.  The horse is the central character in this story and the humans are just living in his world.  So the key to making this all work is getting the audience to connect with the horse.  This can be a  difficult task for a non-human caharcter.  I think Spielberg did a reasonably good job of pulling off that feat.  However I found Jeremy Irvine's playing of Albert Narracott to be a little lifeless in the first act.  But in the end, I was drawn into the movie to good effect.  I want to make special mention of the performances by Benedict Cumberbatch as Major Stewart and Niels Arestrup, the French farmer whose granddaughter cares for Joey a while - at least until the German troops roll in.

Technical

This Blu-ray transfer has reference quality video and audio throughout.  Any softness in the picture is apparently intentional to create a film that looks like it may have been shot some time ago.  The colors are strong, but the palette is manipulated in support of the visual theme.  Most of the film is composed of daylight scenes which are rendered with good punch as expected but what I didn't expect was how punchy the dark scenes would be.  The audio is also first rate with excellent surround activity and sound effects.  Dialog is always clean and intelligible.  The musical score by John Williams is richly textured as well.

Extras

This amazing special edition comes as a four-disc pack.  Studios are really showewring us with lots of bonus material these days.  Besides the feature film on Blu-ray and DVD, you also get a second Blu-ray with additional features and a fourth Digital Copy disc.  Here is the list of the extensive extras - "War Horse: The Journey Home" - Discover how this extraordinary film came to the screen with Steven Spielberg, the production team and cast; "An Extra's Point Of View" - Experience the shoot from the perspective of a "background artist"; "A Filmmaking Journey" - Join Director-Producer Steven Spielberg for an unprecedented look into the making of War Horse, and learn why the film was both a filmmaking journey...and a journey of the heart; "Editing & Scoring"; "The Sounds Of War Horse" and "Through The Producer's Lens"