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Blu-ray Reviews

War Horse Blu-ray Review



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#1 of 13 Matt Hough

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Posted March 28 2012 - 09:35 AM

Steven Spielberg’s War Horse is another of his intimate epics: a very personal story told against some of the most magnificently large and important backdrops imaginable. It’s a story foremost of love and loyalty, bravery and resourcefulness, and the horse is the central character. That Spielberg is able to pull this off in the realistic realm of film is a towering achievement (the play version of the story has been a sellout smash in London and now New York for more than a year) as the film emerges as one of the best of its year.


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War Horse (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Steven Spielberg

Studio: Dreamworks/Touchstone
Year: 2011
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1   1080p   AVC codec  Running Time: 146 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English, HR 7.1 French; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish


Region: A-B-C
MSRP: $ 45.99



Release Date: April 3, 2012

Review Date: March 28, 2012




The Film

4.5/5


When Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan) spends thirty guineas for a horse to plow his rocky Devon fields, he brings his family to the brink of ruin, but son Albert (Jeremy Irvine) works tirelessly to turn Joey the thoroughbred into an invaluable work horse. But their idyll doesn’t last long as a drenching rain ruins the family’s harvest and Ted must sell Joey to Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston) as his cavalry horse for use in World War I. When the officer is killed in the opening battle, Joey and his horse mate Topthorn go through a series of owners, sometimes French, sometimes German, sometimes English as they struggle through four years of war basically as beasts of burden. War finds Albert in the trenches in France, too, but he’s never forgotten the promise to his horse that one day he’d be reunited with him and bring him back home.


Though the nature of the story (adapted for the screen by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis) is episodic once the horse leaves its Dartmore farm, Spielberg manages to sustain audience interest for nearly two and a half hours simply through a startling set of bravura sequences. From Joey’s training for a cavalry charge through the opening battle of the war (startling imagery as horses and riders emerge from a wheat field) where once dominant men on horseback meet the dawn of a new day facing down machine guns, Spielberg makes the most of his virtuoso moments. The No Man’s Land battle sequence easily compares with his opening to Saving Private Ryan, and you’ll never feel more like cheering when Joey, facing down a monstrous German tank after four years of servitude, makes a mad dash for freedom ending in some of the most chilling scenes ever filmed. Along the way, we meet a wonderful array of humanity from a French grandfather (Niels Arestrup) and granddaughter (Celine Buckens) to a German horse handler (Nicolas Bro) who thinks of the horses’ needs before his own. The film’s visual appearance runs the gamut, too. The Devon scenes which bookend the film are painterly in look and tone, reminding one of The Yearling with the strong greens, blues, and oranges. In the climactic World War I scenes, of course, the color is almost completely gone from the image as the damaged earth looks depressingly lifeless and utterly destroyed. These craftily composed scenes add greatly to one’s emotional roller coaster with this movie and virtually assure not a dry eye will be found when the closing credits begin rolling.


There are loads of terrific performances on display. Jeremy Irvine’s determined Albert expresses tremendous emotion through his eyes and body language as his beloved “brother” (his words) is taken from him and miraculously makes a return four years later. Emily Watson as his mother makes a sturdy, believable farm wife for Peter Mullan’s defiant but usually inebriated Ted. Niels Arestrup has some heartbreaking scenes as the grandfather who loses everything due to the war, striving to get Joey back to retain at least a bit of a happier past. Toby Kebbell has some memorable climactic scenes in his rescue of Joey and a friendly bit of jingoistic banter with a German soldier. Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch (as Major Stewart who owns the horse Topthorn who becomes soul mates with Joey), and David Thewlis (as a surly neighbor of the Narracott’s) also make fleeting but effective appearances.



Video Quality

4.5/5


The film’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color saturation and consistency is superb throughout the lengthy narrative (the bright oranges of the final scenes are tremendously striking but never bloom), and flesh tones are wonderfully realistic. Sharpness is usually first-rate except for a few shadowy scenes where the image goes quite milky and indistinct. Black levels are excellent. The film has been divided into 27 chapters.



Audio Quality

5/5


The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound design is a magnificent achievement. John Williams’ symphonic score is rapturously beautiful and always immersive through the entire soundstage. Ambient sounds, be they slight twitters of birds or the massive artillery of the war scenes, are maximized for optimum impact with system-threatening levels of bass occurring on occasion. Dialogue is always discernible and has been placed in the center channel.



Special Features

4/5


Each of the Blu-ray discs in the set contains bonus material. All featurettes are in 1080p.


Disc one offers War Horse: The Journey Home” which is divided into two parts. Spielberg and producer Kathleen Kennedy welcome cast members Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Tom Hiddleston, and Toby Kebbell to talk about their experiences making the movie. Then, the pair invite film editor Michael Kahn, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, production designer Rick Carter, writer Lee Hall, and costume designer Joanna Johnston to talk about their involvement in the project. This runs 19 ½ minutes.


“An Extra’s Point of View” introduces us to Martin Dew who was one of about one hundred extras who pretty much played parts throughout the entire shooting of the movie as townspeople and soldiers on both sides of the war. This runs 3 minutes.


Disc Two contains the majority of the bonus material.


“A Filmmaking Journey” is an inclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film from pre-production right through the final drink after the last shot was taken. This 64 ¼-minute feature features original author Michael Morpurgo as well as key production personnel (listed in the above feature), many members of the cast, a look at the locations used for the movie and the eight adult horses and two young horses that played Joey during the shoot.


“Editing and Scoring” features interviews with Oscar-winners Michael Kahn and John Williams at work editing the footage and composing and conducting the score for the movie respectively. This runs 8 ¾ minutes.


“The Sounds of War Horse allows Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom 7 ¼ minutes to describe his work on the picture including his quest for various sounds to give Joey a distinctive voice.


“Through the Producer’s Lens” offers a short featurette showing some of producer Kathleen Kennedy’s still photos shot during the film’s production. This lasts 4 minutes.


The third disc in the set is the DVD copy of the movie.


The fourth disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie.



In Conclusion

4.5/5 (not an average)


An exceptional movie that combines a triumphant story of overpowering will and love against the backdrop of one of the ugliest wars ever fought, War Horse is a memorable and heartwarming saga that will pull you along willingly through a series of unforgettable adventures. This Blu-ray release offers reference audio and brilliant video quality and a generous array of bonus features to deepen the film experience. Highly recommended!


Matt Hough

Charlotte, NC


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#2 of 13 haineshisway

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Posted March 28 2012 - 09:46 AM

A wonderful movie and a real return to form for Mr. Spielberg. Excellent review.

#3 of 13 Tino

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Posted March 28 2012 - 11:32 AM

One of Spielbergs best.
It's gonna be a hell of a ride. I'm ready. .

#4 of 13 Kevin EK

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Posted March 28 2012 - 11:47 AM

I've been looking forward to seeing this one.   I saw it onstage in the West End in London in 2009, at the end of its first run, before it was extended.   As a stage play, it was a masterpiece of puppetry, and a very sentimental piece.  There were a lot of tears in the audience in that theatre.


I was surprised when I read various reviews of the movie that castigated Spielberg for not making a more hard-edged movie about war, when the actual subject matter is about the boy's relationship to his horse.  At times, the stage play reminded me of various beats of E.T., which made it clear why this would have appealed to Spielberg as a film project.



#5 of 13 TravisR

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Posted March 28 2012 - 01:49 PM

One of Spielbergs best.

It's funny because I thought War Horse was middle of the road for Steven Spielberg but at the same time, if almost anyone else made it, it would probably be a highlight of their career.

#6 of 13 trajan

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Posted March 28 2012 - 04:05 PM

This is a great film. I would even go as far to say that it is one of the greatest war related films ever.

#7 of 13 TravisR

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Posted March 31 2012 - 01:51 AM

There's a $5 off coupon for the 4 disc set at http://www.warhorsemovie.com/

#8 of 13 Ted Van Duyn

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Posted March 31 2012 - 06:24 AM

*Watches film* Well, it was good. Not great. Being a Spielberg film, it hit every note I was expecting from him. A story about a boy and his ______ with family issues. Wake me up when he does a film that has a story focusing on a female lead where the family drama isn't a centralized part of the character. Too demanding? Yes, but I'm on a mission. :)

#9 of 13 Johnny Angell

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Posted March 31 2012 - 06:53 AM

*Watches film* Well, it was good. Not great. Being a Spielberg film, it hit every note I was expecting from him. A story about a boy and his ______ with family issues. Wake me up when he does a film that has a story focusing on a female lead where the family drama isn't a centralized part of the character. Too demanding? Yes, but I'm on a mission. :)

Yes, you are on a mission. Apparently, if the film doesn't focus on a female, you're not happy.
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#10 of 13 Bob Cashill

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Posted March 31 2012 - 10:25 AM

Assuming the "family dramas" THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS and THE COLOR PURPLE don't count, I'd say ALWAYS, which hinges on Holly Hunter's choices.

#11 of 13 Mark Collins

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Posted March 31 2012 - 03:15 PM

I loved this movie and cannot wait to get it this week. I thought it was the best film of the year. The applause came up when the film ended. I can count on my hand only a few movies that I have seen in a theater where this has happened. There was not a dry eye in the house when movie ended.

#12 of 13 Ted Van Duyn

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Posted April 01 2012 - 12:52 AM

Yes, you are on a mission. Apparently, if the film doesn't focus on a female, you're not happy.

Nice observation considering I paid to see this movie in the theater and I knew what to expect. But it didn't matter since I generally admire Spielberg's work a great deal. I even enjoyed Tin Tin when I accidentally saw it in 3D over the holidays. Even though I make comments like that, it is by no means meant to detract nor discourage any of Spielberg's works. Movies can get away with zero female characters and still manage to rank amongst my favorite movies of all time. John Carpenter's The Thing being a prime example. My main purpose in making comments like this is to show that it's not the films that are the problem, but how a majority of films out there seem to follow the same formula. Spielberg has made terrific movies in his career, but he hasn't made a film with a female lead in over a quarter of a century with little to no interest in making any more. Heck, I still remember that George Lucas interview where he said Indy was supposed to have a daughter in Crystal Skull, but Spielberg rejected it. Weird. But I think we'll be alright. After all, we just witnessed Hunger Games crush the sci-fi juggernaut John Carter at the box office. It's not every day when you see a movie about a teenage girl who isn't obsessed over her boyfriend makes over five times the amount of money on the opening day than the film about a macho manly man who fights bad guys and rescues the damsel princess. And Disney actually thought getting rid of the "of Mars" from the title was going to help bring audiences in. :D

#13 of 13 Paul D G

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Posted April 03 2012 - 07:20 PM



Originally Posted by Ted Van Duyn 

But I think we'll be alright. After all, we just witnessed Hunger Games crush the sci-fi juggernaut John Carter at the box office. It's not every day when you see a movie about a teenage girl who isn't obsessed over her boyfriend makes over five times the amount of money on the opening day than the film about a macho manly man who fights bad guys and rescues the damsel princess. And Disney actually thought getting rid of the "of Mars" from the title was going to help bring audiences in. Posted Image



Yeah, but Hunger Games had a built in audience of millions who read and loved the book. John Carter had crappy trailers and posters and looks unappealing. I wanted to take my kid to see it but he said it looks boring.