‘War Horse’ 4-Disc Blu-ray Combo Pack Review
Steven Spielberg had a busy 2011, producing six films and directing two. Sometimes, we have to wait years for our favorite directors to create another movie. Luckily, all you Spielberg fans can see him in pretty rapid succession. Coming out this past Tuesday was the Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack of his latest war epic War Horse. The robust 4-disc set has plenty of features that add to the value when you take into account how beautifully shot the film was. In High-Definition, this movie is a solid pick for multiple reasons.
Story-wise, War Horse uniquely centers the plot around a horse rather than a human. Although we get plenty of characters, Joey (the horse) is arguably the main one. Giving a horse personality is a really difficult thing to do if you think about it. Spielberg himself describes the story as a type of “pass-the-baton” one, making it even more interesting.
Taking place during World War I, Joey finds himself interacting with virtually every side of the war. He is sold to a poor family where he bonds well with his young owner Albert (Jeremy Irvine). When they can’t afford rent, the family sells Joey to a calvary officer (Tom Hiddleston). Eventually, he ends up in the hands of some German soldiers (David Kross, Leonard Carow), a French family, and then the German Army.
The whole time, Albert swears he will be reunited with his best friend, eventually enlisting in the Army to bring Joey home.
The storytelling method is very effective since we’re able to see the perspectives of all types of war. We get to see the primary sides, but we also get to understand what it was like to live as a spectator in the war. It was a terrifying time for everyone involved. This all culminates in one of the best scenes of last year that involves two sides ceasing fire to rescue Joey.
The filmmakers admit it isn’t designed to be a war movie per se, which makes one of my only criticisms moot. Going into the movie, I was expecting a different take on the actual war aspect. This minor detail is easily forgivable.
As for the Combo Pack, War Horse delivers some great looks at the filmmaking process. In many behind-the-scenes features, Steven Spielberg et al help us understand what went into making this film, from its conception to its release. They did a great job of showing the beautiful landscape within the film. Using various wide shots, War Horse was a primarily outdoor movie that had some spectacular landscapes, textures, and colors. Visually, the film rocked, even if it grew tiresome by the end.
Besides a Digital Copy disc, there is a DVD and Blu-ray copy of the film. The latter three discs include an array of special features. Here are the details:
War Horse: The Journey Home (Blu-ray) – This 19-minute segment talks about how War Horse came to be a movie. It also explores why the film shouldn’t be considered a “war movie”. This serves as a smaller version of a commentary track (one of the only things lacking from this set).
An Extra’s Point of View (Blu-ray) – A short segment about the hard work extras put into movies. They often get taken for granted, but with a large production, they are very valuable to the authenticity of a film.
A Filmmaking Journey (Blu-ray) – By far the biggest special feature, this hour-plus feature plays out almost like a documentary. Spielberg, his crew, and the actors all talk about everything from horses to casting to costumes and beyond.
Editing & Scoring (Blu-ray) – War Horse picked up six Academy Award nominations, five of which involved editing or sound. This feature gives a glimpse of the process.
The Sounds of War Horse (Blu-ray) – Similar to the “Editing & Scoring” special feature, this one focuses on sound editing and mixing.
Through the Producer’s Lens (Blu-ray) – A short interview with Kathleen Kennedy about film production.
War Horse: The Look (DVD) – This feature doesn’t add much that wasn’t already seen in the Blu-ray special features. However, it does provide a short look into the production in Standard-Definition, if for some reason you can’t use a Blu-ray player.
In all, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse is a beautiful film that should be viewed in High-Definition. Add in the above special features, and the purchase is well worth it.