We all know that the Academy loves Steven Spielberg, but that adoration can take you only so far. Although his directorial effort The Adventures of Tintin was considered a lock for the Best Animated Feature category, it came up empty and was one of Oscar’s biggest snubs. You can imagine then the legendary director’s thrill with his War Horse earning a Best Picture nomination. What sets War Horse apart from the rest of the pack is that it is the sole sweeping epic that spans the European landscape during the dawn and arrival of World War I.
War Horse is one of those films that must be seen before Oscar night on February 26. The reason, besides its being a stellar piece of work, is that it is ten times more powerful on the big screen than waiting for it to arrive on DVD or Blu-Ray.
Spielberg is the king of modern epics and that evidence is showcased with every frame of his story based on the stage play, which was subsequently inspired by the Michael Morpurgo novel. The story follows Jeremy Irvine’s Albert as he and his horse Joey bond and work together in the roughest of terrains in an effort to save Albert’s family farm. World War I breaks out and Joey is sold into service with the British military. Albert vows to find him, regardless of the cost or effort.
Irvine’s character is too young to enlist, so the audience follows Joey to battle with Tom Hiddleston’s Captain Nicholls as his master and then subsequently through his short-lived relationship with a young French girl, trudging to the front with the German military and then a harrowing experience on the front lines.
During our exclusive interview with Irvine, he told us, “I had read the book at the age of nine.” That background helped him immensely. But, he was quick to give all of the credit for the astounding film to his director Spielberg.
“He’s the master craftsman,” Irvine said. "He’s incredibly kind and generous. With me, he wasn’t just my director, he was my film teacher and he had a real paternal instinct. On the back of his chair it doesn’t say Steven Spielberg, or director, it says ‘dad.’ His greatest skill as a director is making you comfortable. When you’re that comfortable, you do your best work. You don’t worry about making mistakes. You’re just doing your job the best you can.”
Whether War Horse will win the top prize is honestly a long shot. Yet the film is classic Spielberg and will be remembered for a century after it fades from the 2011-2012 awards season. Of all the nominees, War Horse is the one that will simultaneously inspire, warm and break your heart, and find you cheering and sobbing after spending two hours with a filmmaker who is as good as they come.