War Horse: 4-Disc Combo Pack (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
April 3, 2012 by Dennis Amith
A beautiful, moving and wonderful film capturing a horse and its ability to bring out the human spirit with the many people it comes across. “War Horse” is magnificent!
TITLE: War Horse
FILM RELEASE DATE: 2011
DURATION: 146 minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD MA (48 kHz/24-bit), French 7.1 DTS-HD HR, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound, Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
COMPANY: Dreamworks Pictures/Touchstone Home Entertainment
RATED: PG-13 (For Intense Sequence of War Violence)
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis
Executive Producer: Revel Guest, Frank Marshall
Produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg
Co-Producer: Tracey Seaward, Adam Somner
Music by John Williams
Cinematography by Janusz Kaminski
Edited by Michael Kahn
Casting by Jina Jay
Production Design by Rick Carter
Set Decoration by Lee Sandales
Costume Design by Joanna Johnston
Jeremy Irvine as Albert Narracott
Peter Mullan as Ted Narracott
Emily Watson as Rose Narracott
Niels Arestrup as Grandfather
David Thewlis as Lyons
Tom Hiddleston as Captain Nicholls
Benedict Cumerbatch as Major Jamie Stewart
Celine Buckens as Emilie
Toby Kebbell as Geordie Soldier
Patrick Kennedy as Lt. Charlier Waverly
Leonard Crow as Michael
David Kross as Gunther
Matt Milne as Andrew Easton
Robert Emms as David Luons
Eddie Marsan as Sgt. Fry
Nicolas Bro as Friedrich
Rainer Bock as Brandt
“War Horse,” the Academy Award®-nominated Best Picture, is a story of incredible friendship, loyalty, courage, hope and tenacity. Based on the Tony Award®-winning play, and set against the sweeping canvas of World War I, this deeply heartfelt tale begins with the remarkable friendship between a feisty colt named Joey and his young trainer Albert (Jeremy Irvine). When they’re forced apart by war, the film follows Joey’s extraordinary journey as he changes and inspires the lives of everyone he meets. No matter where they go or what they experience both boy and horse keep forging ahead, driven by devotion and the hope of returning home. Filled with spectacularly rich visuals, “War Horse” is one of the most powerful and moving stories of friendship and love ever filmed.
In 1982, Michael Morpurgo wrote the children’s fiction novel “War Horse”, a story set during the outbreak of World War I.
The book received its film adaptation courtesy of filmmaker Steven Spielberg and screenwriters Lee Hall and Richard Curtis and was released in theaters on Christmas day of 2011 and would earn over $173 million in the box office and in April 2012, the film will be released on Blu-ray and DVD.
“War Horse” would reunite Steven Spielberg with the top talents in the film industry such as cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (“Saving Private Ryan”, “Schindler’s List”, “Minority Report”), editor Michael Kahn (“Saving Private Ryan”, “Schindler’s List”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”), sound designer Gary Rydstrom (“Saving Private Ryan”, “Minority Report”, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”) and also reunited Spielberg with legendary composer John Williams (known for creating the soundtracks for the “Star Wars” films and “Harry Potter” films).
The film marks a new beginning for Steven Spielberg. One, this is the first film in which Spielberg directed a film about a horse as the main character and portraying him at various stages of the horse’s life. The film also marks Spielberg’s first time cutting the film digitally.
“War Horse” would go on to earn six Academy Award nominations including “Best Picture” and would win the American Film Institute Award for “Film of the Year 2011”.
“War Horse” is story about a thoroughbred named Joey, the horse was purchased by young Albert’s father Peter (played by Ted Narracott) during a drunken stupor and raised and trained by Albert (played by Jeremy Irvine), Joey would show amazing talents and the bond between Albert and his horse Joey was strong.
But with World War I, the cavalry was in desperate need of horses and because Albert’s family has always been struggling financially, his father sold Joey to the Calvary and shipped to France which would be in the care of Captain Nicholls (played by Tom Hiddleston). Nicholls makes a promise to Albert that he will take care of his horse.
The film would then show how the horse journey through World War I and having been in the possession of many owners, including both opposing sides of the war.
Meanwhile, throughout the years, as young Albert has now grown up to become a young man that enlists in the British Army and will one day be reunited with his horse Joey.
“War Horse” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:40:1). When Steven Spielberg brought in cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, you get one of the best in the business. A man who knows how to capture the shot and in this case, to capture the beauty of Dartmoor but also to capture the essence of peace and serenity via pre-war but also the darkness and fear during the war. There are wonderful, breathtaking shots that are seen throughout the film with vibrant colors to lush greenery of the area.
There is also wonderful detail when it comes to the closeups of the horses and black levels were nice and deep. I didn’t catch any banding, artifacts or any problems with the overall video. If anything, picture quality for “War Horse” is outstanding!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“War Horse” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD MA (48 kHZ/24-bit), French 7.1 DTS-HD HR and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. Dialogue is crystal clear and there is amazing use of the surround channels. From the beginning as Joey is plowing the field to the use of music courtesy of John Williams. But the film shows how wonderful it could sound via lossless once we get to the war.
As one would expect from a film with war scenes, the film is absolutely immersive as you hear machine guns, tanks, cavalries and their horses marching and stomping to bomb blasts via LFE. There is good use of the rear surround channels and panning through the surround channels and I was quite impressed by how the overall mix was. “War Horse” has an amazing lossless soundtrack!
Also, the musical soundtrack is wonderful. The music is inspired by the serenity of the British landscapes and manages to capture that feel of adventure but also the horse as it goes through its adventures. John Williams approach was to utilize brass instruments.
The brass is the key to the music of “War Horse”, creating emotion and feeling of the horse trough the ages. Steven Spielberg said in the booklet notes of William’s composition, “I feel that John has made a special gift to me of this music, which was inspired not only by my film but also by my many of the picturesque settings of the poet William Wordsworth, whose vivid descriptions of the British landscape inspired much of what you’re going to hear. I’m not sure what I can give John in return, other than a promise of more films to come…for as many more years as we both can imagine!”.
Subtitles are in English SDH, French and Spanish.
“War Horse” comes with the following special features:
- War Horse: The Journey Home – (19:35) Featuring interviews with Steven Spielberg and the cast and a second roundtable interview with the creative team and crew.
- An Extra’s Point of View – (3:06) A featurette about extra Martin D. Dew and his involvement in the film.
- A Filmmaking Journal – (1:04:13) A more in-depth featurette on the screen adaptation of “War Horse”, the casting and shooting on location.
- Editing & Scoring – (8:53) Editor Michael Kahn and composer John Williams discuss their involvement with “War Horse” and their longtime collaboration with Steven Spielberg.
- The Sounds of War Horse – (7:13) Gary Rydstrom talks about the sounds of “War Horse” and his goal to make the film sound authentic.
- Through the Producer’s Lens – (4:04) Producer Kathleen Kennedy talks about the photos she took on location during the filming of “War Horse”.
“War Horse” comes with a slipcover case, two Blu-rays (one for the film and the other for the special features), the DVD version of the film and a digital copy of the feature film.
“War Horse” is a film that captures the human spirit but most of all, Steven Spielberg ability to capture the relationship and emotions may it be an animal to an extra-terrestrial, it’s one thing that Spielberg has been wonderful in doing.
We have seen Spielberg create a heartfelt film with “E.T.”, we have seen him recently capture human and animal relationships through adventures with “The Adventures of Tin Tin”, but “War Horse” is a challenge that the filmmaker was ready to take on.
How would you be able to create a film based on a horse? It’s one thing to get the actors to be emotional and caring towards a horse but you have to capture the horse being interested as the actions must seem natural to the viewer. And sure enough, with amazing trainers, the reactions by Joey the horse as it goes through a lot during its adventures is nothing short of amazing.
“War Horse” is no doubt a collaborative film. In order to make this film work, you would need a wonderful location, wonderful cinematography, costume and set design, music, sound design and talent and many extras in order to create this sense of dire during World War I. Characters who come across the horse Joey and eventually are touched by it. And of course, the trainers responsible in making the horse meet its mark (there are possibly over a hundred of horses used in this film, especially during the war scenes).
For one, “War Horse” is a gorgeous film. Spielberg brought in his top guns for this film, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and editor Michael Kahn. They have had a long working relationship with Spielberg and part of the believability of this film is its look. From the peaceful pre-war landscapes to the muddy trenches during World War I. You have the cinematography and editing there, you have the look courtesy of Lee Sandales on set decoration and Joanna Johnston via costume design. Every soldier on opposing sides have a uniform and you eventually get the sense of how grand this film is.
And of course, when it comes to emotion, to help tie the characters to Joey, you have the wonderful music of John Williams. And also the sound courtesy of sound designer Gary Rydstrom is absolute amazing. If you are an audiophile, you will literally hear how immersive this lossless soundtrack truly is on Blu-ray. It’s one of the best lossless soundtracks that I have heard on Blu!
For the most part, everything came together for this film and I was quite impressed.
As for the Blu-ray release, the video and audio is absolutely magnificent. There are many special features as well on two Blu-ray discs and you also get the DVD and digital copy version of the film with the 4-disc combo pack.
Overall, “War Horse” is a beautiful, moving and wonderful film capturing a horse and its ability to bring out the human spirit with the many people it comes across. While it may not be as emotional as Robert Bresson’s 1966 film “Au hasard Balthazar” nor do we see the cruelty the horse must go through from owner to owner, the film is not about the cruelty of man towards horse. Nor is “War Horse” a war film. It’s about a horse that brings out the human spirit no matter who the owner is or whatever side the horse is being utilized. The hope of one young man being reunited with his horse and that hope and even a bit of luck exists, even during dire circumstances.
Steven Spielberg and his crew once again has done a wonderful job and for those contemplating on this Blu-ray release, it really is magnificent. Not just the film itself but its presentation, its picture quality and its fantastic lossless soundtrack.
“War Horse” is highly recommended!
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