War Horse

Steven Spielberg struggles to rein in the sentiment in this World War I drama

A war movie unlike any other you’ve ever seen, Steven Spielberg’s latest casts a horse called Joey as its central character and uses this idea to explore the impact the animal has on the various people it encounters on both sides of the conflict. It’s an intriguing notion and one that has worked both as a children’s book and, particularly, on stage where it has picked up numerous awards.

The screen version is a somewhat different beast though. Working from a script by Richard ‘Love Actually’ Curtis, the film foregrounds overt sentimentality to the detriment of the main narrative and the horrors of war it tries to evoke. The resulting experience isn’t bad, merely adequate – which isn’t something you’d expect from a master filmmaker like Spielberg.

Picture: War Horse’s AVC 2.40:1 1080p encode clearly ranks amongst the upper tier of hi-def presentations. No matter what criteria you use to judge it (fine detailing, sharpness, colour saturation, black levels) the encode rarely falters. Highlights include the cavalry charge through long grass, filling the air with golden seeds, in Chapter 13, and the astonishing clarity of the shot where Emelie is reflected in a close-up of Joey’s eye in Chapter 17. It’s all a bit green and brown, though...
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: Presented as a DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix, the film’s sound design (by Gary Lydstrom, who performed the same duty on last year's Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) is more enjoyable than the movie’s narrative. The use of the full soundstage is exemplary, whether it’s the ambient effects of life on a farm during the opening chapters, or the chaos of the battlefield during Joey’s nighttime run through No Man’s Land in Chapter 22. Each element of the soundscape – from directionality to LFE – is stunningly rendered.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: While this Blu-ray disc proves to be a thoroughbred in the AV department, it pulls up short when it comes to delivering worthwhile bonus features. The only extras included on this single-disc UK release are War Horse: The Journey Home (a 20-minute roundtable with Spielberg and various members of the cast and crew) and An Extra’s Point of View (a three-minute profile of ‘professional’ extra Martin D Dew) neither of which are particularly informative affairs.

If you fancy something a little more substantial, Asda will be stocking an exclusive two-disc Blu-ray set containing a 64-min behind-the-scenes documentary dubbed A Filmmaking Journey and three additional featurettes. Unfortunately, Disney was unable to provide this version for review, so we’ve had to rate the extras based on the standard single-disc edition.
Extra rating: 1/5

We say: The film itself may divide audiences, but the stunning AV makes the disc a real champion

Walt Disney Home Entertainment, All-region BD, £26 Approx, On sale May 7