An instant-classic by all means.
The movie without a doubt changes the way I look at what makes a perfect piece of cinema. Looking back at every film that I've so daringly given perfect scores to, I can't help but want to drag down everyone of them to a lower score. Walking out of WAR HORSE, not one film other than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo comes close to being as good this year. Handing out a perfect rating should be something done rarely for those one or two films a year that truly come off as masterpieces. Was The Descendants a masterpiece? What about My Week with Marilyn? The Artist? None of these films reach that standard, but War Horse does by all means and for that none of those films really deserve the perfect-score that I handed them.
WAR HORSE brought me back to the 90s, a decade in which I believe contained all of the best films and plenty of classics. The film reminisced the same style a lot of classic period films contained. It had the strong melodramatic element that films like Legends of the Fall and Far and Away (among others) had. WAR HORSE is heavy on trying to reach the audience through the sadness of broken-apart friendships and the acts of war and movies nowadays tackling the subject forget to add the pepper but instead add too much salt. The pepper being heart, compassion, and love and the salt being just war violence with no side elements whatsoever. WAR HORSE takes place during a war, but it isn't a war-epic filled with violence. Its an epic for sure but is instead filled with a deep story conveying a beautiful friendship and plenty other elements worth-while; this is a film that grasps a certain storyline that hasn't been told so well in the longest time.
When I say that the film brought me back to the 90s, I have a strong reasoning and case to rest. In the 90s, there were a lot of films released that contained story-lines about relationships and the way war impacted them. Legends of the Fall, for example, was about three brothers and their father and how war, time, and romance impacted their lives and relationship as a family. In the last decade or so, we haven't seen many films about how war impacts the relationship between families, couples, or friends but instead have been fueled with romantic-comedies, science-fiction epics, and lets not forget rehashed horror-flicks and god-awful remakes. WAR HORSE takes us back to a time where movies were made to captivate audiences, not now where films are just made to be made for the purpose of money.
Steven Speilberg has played his card well with his work on WAR HORSE, especially how he cleverly defines the term "classic" film-making. Ten years from now this will be a film that people still discuss and remember on occasion. Somebody name one film in the last five years that'll still be hailed a classic in the next decade. I hate to burst your bubble, but Avatar simply isn't the instant-classic people claim it to be. It was a money-grubber and the title of it being #1 grossed-film of all-time is the only reason it'll still be remembered in the next ten years or so. That doesn't make it a classic in my book. A success? Yes, but nothing more. War Horse, however, no matter how much money it makes is already a classic in my eyes. Its pure-magic and absolutely remarkable, something Avatar never grasped. That film grasped excellent technology-use and a borrowed plot from Dances with Wolves. WAR HORSE grasps something movies desperately need nowadays: love and originality.
This a movie filled with plenty of love and originality. No matter how many war-films have been made in the existence of film not one has ever told the beautiful story of a young man and his relationship with his horse. Meet Albert, a young farmer boy growing up with a struggling family unable to keep hold of everything they hold. When their down to their last dollar and have no choice but to sell their farm over to their landlord, they buy a strong horse named Joey who may just be their key to keeping a roof over their heads. Through Joey's training, Albert finds a best-friend in the creature and grows accustomed to the horse. When the beautiful animal is sold over to the army when a war breaks out, Albert promises Joey that he'll find him once he's old enough to become a soldier. From there, Joey is faced with the adventure of a lifetime through different viewpoints of war on both sides and even through the eyes of a young child. It tells the story of the good, bad, and heroic times of war through the eyes never-seen before in any picture I can recall, a horse's eyes.
Something unique that the film conveys is its style of telling the story. Joey goes through many different viewpoints in the war. He goes from living on a farm with Albert, to battling on the fields with a soldier, to switching over to the other side and running off with two young brothers, and then living with a young girl. The film shows you all of the different views on war and how each character impacts Joey's adventure and survival during the time-period in which he is away from Albert's care. In a way, each of the character's that Joey is with through a certain time saves his life (and he even saves their's) and teaches him a lesson in which helps him grow stronger and keep forward in his quest for survival and returning with his human-friend, Albert.
The best element the film contains is all of the different stories that it tells with each character Joey encounters. One I appreciated most was of the two German brothers, where one is too young to be fighting in the war and the other who is holding a promise to his mother that he'll keep his sibling safe from danger no matter what. When the two go AWAL, they bring Joey and a beautiful black Stallion. Their part to the film may be short, but through the love the two brother's share in their quest to getting as far away from the war as possible is where Joey and the black Stallion see that they too are also like brothers and must stick together no matter what happens in the war. Not many people noticed this connection, but this was the input that I made when watching the film. Like I said, each character that Joey encounters in the war teach him a different lesson or give him a different view. The view that he received from the two brothers is that he should protect the black Stallion and keep him from danger like the older brother did with his younger sibling. This input was just beautiful, simply beautiful because it showed how human-like the characteristics of Joey were through the war.
Another element that the film is able to use is its interesting way of telling the story of Albert and Joey's distance from each other; In the film, whenever Joey was safe from danger Albert was safe too. But, when Albert was running through trenches and fighting for his life, Joey too was going through something dangerous and hectic. No matter how far the two were away from each other, they were both always either fighting for their lives or having a life-changing experience at the same moments. For example (spoiler alert), when Albert was stunned and unable to see through his eyes, Joey was injured and caught on a fence. Both of them were injured in the war, but in a strange coincidence, were injured around the same time. These injuries brought Joey and Albert together again. When you think about it, the idea of both of them being safe at the same moment or being in danger at the same moment (but in different places) throughout the film led them to the same moment of injury which led the two back together again. The two may have gone down a different path in the film, but each of them went through the exact same thing and that was what brought them back together again. This is the original style and taste of film-making that War Horse grasped and I'm glad that I caught on to this connection, unlike most people who viewed the film. That is probably the most beautiful element of all that it contains.
WAR HORSE is this year's biggest film that contains everything an instant-classic needs to be, well, a classic! Its touching, unbelievably beautiful, and tells a wonderful story of a young man and his brave horse through love, compassion, and being tough. Steven Spielberg has certainly outdone himself and has made probably the film of his long career; a career in which he has made some of the most recognized classics in the history of cinema. Unfortunately, as much as I did love WAR HORSE and how I will be rooting for it at the Oscars in February, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is my favorite film of 2011 still. I just came to realize that it won't be a winner at the Academy Awards, therefore, I'm rooting for WAR HORSE all the way since its a lock for many different categories. If there is a film that deserves to beat out Titanic's long-holding record, its this. No matter how much doubt some have over its chance against The Artist, this horse is strong and will certainly fight its war. THE WAR FOR BEST PICTURE STARTS NOW!
Thanks for the read!
-Written by Corey Wood