I saw an advanced screening of War Horse this evening. It is, without the shadow of a doubt, the best picture I have seen this year and that includes a lengthy list of Oscar contenders.
Steven Spielberg originally signed on to produce but opted to direct the film when he read the first draft of the screenplay. This film likely would not have happened had it not been for Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy attending the London stage production with their two daughters. At the time in 2009 when they saw it, nobody had bothered to buy the film rights so they did. When DreamWorks optioned the rights sometime thereafter, Spielberg was quoted as saying:
"From the moment I read Michael Morpurgo's novel War Horse, I knew this was a film I wanted DreamWorks to make ... Its heart and its message provide a story that can be felt in every country."At the heart of this film is the phenomenal story of a friendship between a boy and his horse. They become separated at the start of the war but someway, somehow, their story finds a miraculous way be intertwined as they try to survive the horrors of World War I.
The film featured a nice reunion towards the end of the film when one officer asks that the horse be shot due to the extent of his injuries but then the horse reacts to a noise in the distance coming from Albert, the boy that raised him. It's a reunion that leaves you teary eyed.
There was a nice scene in which the English and Germans come to a truce to free Joey (Albert named him that) from the barbed wire.
Based on the book of the same name published in 1982 by Michael Morpurgo, Spielberg directs from a screenplay by Richard Curtis and Lee Hall. It's a well done script as well so don't be shocked if it somehow takes the lead as front runner for adapted screenplay. The cast includes David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, and Tom Hiddleston.
The play was adapted by Nick Stafford.
The usual suspects are involved as far as music, cinematography, and editing. John Williams composed an amazing score that fit the film. Janusz Kamiński, as he has since 1993, did the cinematography. Michael Kahn edited the film. There was a nice shot where the mother was sewing and they did a quick shot to the plowing of the farm. It could be because this is the first of Spielberg's films to be digitally edited.
You can't ask for a better director than Speilberg to film a war movie. Keep in mind that he's directed six set during or before WW2 (1941, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Empire of the Sun, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan). He's produced both Clint Eastwood movies set during WW2 (Flags of our Fathers, Letters to Iwo Jima).
Producer Kathleen Kennedy commented about the appeal of the story saying "In cinema we've told very few stories about World War I and I think that's one of the things that attracted us to this ... It's a forgotten war in the United States, and that had a very powerful effect on Steven and I."
The synopsis via RT:
Set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War, War Horse begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. When they are forcefully parted, the film follows the extraordinary journey of the horse as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets-British cavalry, German soldiers, and a French farmer and his granddaughter-before the story reaches its emotional climax in the heart of No Man's Land. The First World War is experienced through the journey of this horse-an odyssey of joy and sorrow, passionate friendship and high adventure.I cannot recommend this film enough. It's definitely going to see a bluray purchase this spring.