Review Roundup: WAR HORSE Hits the Silver Screen
Steven Spielberg has adapted War Horse into a feature length film, which is set to be released in movie theatres on December 25.
At the outbreak of World War One, Joey, young Albert's beloved horse, is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France. He's soon caught up in enemy fire, and fate takes him on an extraordinary odyssey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in no man's land. But Albert cannot forget Joey and, still not old enough to enlist, he embarks on a treacherous mission to the trenches to find him and bring him home.
War Horse was originally a novel by Michael Morpurgo, released in 2007. The show was then adapted into a play which is currently running at the New London Theatre and Broadway's Vivian Beaumont Thetare. The film's cast includes Jeremy Irvine, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Kennedy, Emily Watson, Toby Kebbell, David Thewlis, Eddie Marsa and Peter Mullan. Did the film version receive the same praise on paper and stage? Find out now!
Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly: Spielberg, attuned to the power of that equine eloquence, gives Joey and his human costars exactly what they need to run free. This is a beautifully built, classically framed movie, shot with the unshowy natural expressiveness of a John Ford Western by Spielberg's great cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski. The tears this War Horse wrings are honest, as Joey's fate becomes entwined with those of British and German soldiers equally capable (amidst bombs, gun blasts, and hideous barbed wire) of appreciating animal magnificence.
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: Putting this episodic saga on the big screen accentuates its one-dimensionality more than does the still-running legitimate theater version, where its symbolic and allegorical elements can be more easily accommodated in abstract terms. All the same, this is a story that people of all ages and from all nations can understand, which, propelled by Spielberg's name and much undoubted acclaim, will translate into major rewards at the box office.
Richard Corliss, TIME: Viewers coming to the movie version might think it's no fair using real horses (seven played Joey), but Spielberg's team wrangled eloquent performances from all of them, and from the human stars Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan and Tom Hiddleston. In his most painterly film, Spielberg has appropriated the lavish visual palette of John Ford movies: The Quiet Man for the rural settings, The Horse Soldiers for the war scenes. Boldly emotional, nakedly heartfelt, War Horse will leave only the stoniest hearts untouched.
Christopher Tookey, The Daily Mail: Steven Spielberg, with the help of screenwriters Lee Hall and Richard Curtis, has fashioned Michael Morpurgo’s novel into an unforgettable experience, the most moving picture I have seen all year. This could be described as a ‘boy and his horse’ movie, but that is to underestimate its power, passion and complexity. This is the best of all horse movies, even surpassing such classics as National Velvet, Black Beauty and Seabiscuit.
Justin Chang, Variety: This beautifully composed picture brings a robust physicality to tried-and-true source material, but falls short of the sustained narrative involvement and emotional drive its resolutely old-fashioned storytelling demands. Nonetheless, impeccable craft, pedigree and unique appeal to heartland and overseas audiences will give DreamWorks' year-end prestige release strong theatrical and ancillary legs.