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Review of War Horse, or Why Steven Spielberg is the Best Director Ever

The name "Spielberg" has already become synonymous with filmmaking. And why is that? Why does his name evoke images of a craft-loving director who has been involved with cinema since the analog days? Why is Steven Spielberg widely considered to be the best director in the history of cinema, even if he has only two Best Director Oscars?

The answer there has something to do with range. Steven Spielberg has a very wide artistic range. He can tell visual stories with subjects ranging from aliens to velociraptors (I couldn't think of something that starts with Z, so I settled for V). It also has something to do with storytelling technique. Spielberg tells his stories with such clarity, often utilizing framing in such a way as to tell multiple actions with a single shot.

But what makes Steven Spielberg, in the eyes of millions of fans, the best director ever? The answer is in his latest flick, War Horse.

1. Spielberg is great at directing horses.

For those who are unfamiliar, War Horse was a stage play before it was a movie, and before a stage play it was a book. The main star of War Horse is the horse Joey. It's not Tom Hiddleston, who dies just a few minutes into the film. And it's also definitely not Benedict Cumberbatch. It's the horse.

"Action! Go ahead. Try to knock his hat off. Perfect. Cut!"

And with the horse as the main star of his film, Spielberg had to get a horse that could act. In the stage play, they had to construct a special horse puppet, because they knew that the horse would play a very crucial part, and they had to have some semblance of control over it. Spielberg of course has no such problems like that. Because Steven Spielberg can control horses.

"Action! Now go up to the bucket and pretend you see
Sarah Jessica Parker's face. Excellent! Cut!"

I don't know how Spielberg actually did it, but I am betting he used a mix of three techniques: real horses, puppets, and CGI (listed in order of frequency of use). His superb directing skills come into play when deciding which technique to use with which shot. Even the sharp-eyed among us can't tell which is which.

"Action! Now show us that bitchy hair flip. Wonderful! Cut!"

2. Spielberg is great at directing geese.

What animal in the entire animal kingdom is more difficult to direct than a horse? The answer:

"Action! Go after the guy who played Professor Lupin in Harry Potter! Yes, brilliant! Cut!"

Yes. A goose. Or a gander. I'm not sure which. But from what I know, they're one of the most stubborn barn animals in the history of farmhouses. But Steven Spielberg is able to direct one. Look, if someone can direct velociraptors, then surely he can also direct geese, right? I mean, what are geese but modern-day dinosaurs? Right? So if Spielberg can tell a goose, "Okay, when I say action, David Thewlis starts running toward the gate, and you chase after him while flapping your wings. Got that?" then that means Spielberg is the best director ever. Because he can direct animals. He's like the Beastmaster of directors.

Basically, War Horse is a well-directed drama, but it's not something I would watch more than once. Maybe twice, maximum. I only have one problem with it, though, and it concerns a technique which I have dubbed as "effective realism". Steven Spielberg likes using accents instead of subtitles. So if the scene is about some German soldiers in the German trenches, these soldiers speak not in German, but in German-accented English. If the scene is about some French villagers cowering in fear at the approaching German army, these villagers speak not in French, but in French-accented English. Not cool, Mr. Spielberg. Use subtitles, for crying out loud.

Mr. Spielberg however makes up for his non-use of effective realism by casting this girl in his movie.

"Hi, I'm Celine Buckens. In five years, I'll be the girl that
every guy has masturbated to at least once."

Very good, then. Problem solved.

War Horse. USA. 2011.

Rating: Six and a half out of ten.

*some info from IMDb
images from YouTube and TQN
GIFs by Sue Denim


GIFs by Sue Denim. Hahahaha. :P

Same ratng: 6.5 out of 10. Good timeless heartwarming story, but I was more attracted to and impressed by how the shots display on the screen.

Ayan, naka-credit ka na. Yes, great production design and cinematography. It has Oscar nominations in those categories.

Rahul said...

War Horse is an exceptional film. But I do believe that this ToI review has been more generous to it that many Western critics. Although not commercially unsuccessful, this film is clearly not oriented towards non-artistic film goers. But even from an artistic point of view, the war-theme depicted has nothing to offer that other classics like Saving Private Ryan or No Man's Land haven't already done. The only refreshingly new scene in the movie was the (fictional) banter between a German and an English soldier engaged in freeing Joey, when he's stuck in the cross-fire. Fictional or not, Spielberg did manage to bring forth the (animal loving) human being behind the rifle triggers and bayonets, and for that he deserves credit. I loved the movie and so high rate it high. But no harm in expecting greater things from the greatest.

Thank you for your comment, Rahul. Yes, there is definitely no harm in expecting greater things from the greatest. I still enjoyed The Adventures of Tintin more than this film.

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