Tags: Benedict Cumberbatch, Blu-ray, David Thewlis, Digital Copy, Disney, DreamWorks, Emily Watson, Jeremy Irvine, Niels Arestrup, Peter Mullan, Steven Spielberg, Toby Kebbell, Tom Hiddleston, Touchstone Pictures
has an average rating of 7.2 on IMDb
1080p in AVC MPEG-4 on a 50gb disc
DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio
span across 2 Blu-rays & are Hi-Def!
– 146 minutes
– Touchstone Pictures (Disney)
This uses 40.1GB total.
Overall Verdict – Very Highly Recommended
— Review written by: Justin Sluss —
The Movie Itself was directed and produced by the legendary Steven Spielberg as well produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. The screenplay was based on the novel of the same title written by Michael Morpurgo.
The story here focuses on a horse that we see being born at the very beginning of the film. The horse is a beautiful thoroughbred colt brown in color with distinguished white lower legs (“boots” of sorts) and a white diamond shaped cross on its head. As the horse is born in Devon England we see a boy watching nearby named “Albert Narracott” (played by Jeremy Irvine) who takes an immediate liking to the horse. The horse, once of age, is taken to auction and at that auction we see a bidding war ignite between Albert’s father “Ted” (played by Peter Mullan) and the man who owns their farm. Mr. Narracott manages to outbid his landlord “Lyons” (played by David Thewlis) but this comes with some obvious spite and repercussion. When Ted returns home with the horse his son Albert is immediately ecstatic that his father purchased the horse while Ted’s wife “Rose” (played by Emily Watson) is absolutely furious that he spent 30 guineas on this. Rose is upset that they won’t be able to pay their rent to the landlord and that is just the case, as Lyons reminds Ted early on that he’ll be expecting his payment for rent soon; knowing he spent all his money on this horse. Ted’s aim is to use the horse to plow his fields and plant turnips yet he’s in no physical shape himself to do this; as he was wounded in a previous war. His son Albert takes it upon himself to both name the horse (“Joey“) and train him. Eventually he manages to put a harness on the horse and hook it up to the plow and attempts to do what his father intended the horse to be used for so they can pay the rent. To the astonishment of both his father, mother, the landlord and the local neighbors Albert manages to actually get the stone filled hill beside their home plowed and they plant turnips.
All seems to be going good at this point but the sad part is a very serious storm comes and totally destroys their entire crop of turnips and the efforts now are pointless as they will not have the money to pay the rent. As this is happening news comes that a war has broken out with Germany — World War I. As a heart-breaking last resort to get the money to pay the rent the boy’s father (Ted) takes the horse to the royal military calvary to sell. He sells the horse to a “Captain Nicholls” (played by Tom Hiddleston). Albert manages to find out from his mother what his father has done and gets there in time to try to talk his father out of it and even offers to enlist in the military himself but isn’t yet of age to do so. Captain Nicholls promises Albert that he will take great care of the horse and if he can he will return it to him after the war is over. Albert pins his father’s regimental pennant (a flag of sorts he received while serving in the war he was injured) to the reins of the horse and the two are separated. This upsets Albert and he plans to do anything he can to eventually get his horse back. Eventually when he comes of age he does enlist in the military and makes his way to the warfront. Here in the line of duty Albert will manage to do some heroic deeds while serving his country and also most importantly trying to reunite with his horse.
Meanwhile Albert’s horse “Joey” has managed to have one long strange journey during this time of war and stayed safe despite treacherous conditions and changes of ownership numerous times. At one point he manages to end up being taken care of by a French girl by the name of “Emile” (played by Celine Buckens). Emile lives with her grandfather (played by Niels Arestrup) as her parents died in a previous war. The young girl is sickly and her grandfather is very reluctant to let her ride the horse for that reason; yet she still manages to make efforts to as well as to try train the horse to jump over obstacles. I won’t really go into any further details here about the story to avoid spoilers.
“War Horse” proved to be an extremely enjoyable and heart-warming film to me personally. Plus it was accepted very well by both critics and moviegoers alike. For example, the film has a 77% rating (out of 100%) on the “tomatometer” over at Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.2 rating (out of 10) over at IMDb. The film was successful in two senses. First during its theatrical run where it grossed 175 million dollars worldwide with a reported 66 million dollar budget (according to Box Office Mojo). The second sense the film was successful was that it was nominated for SIX Academy Awards. It didn’t end up winning any “Oscars” but the nominations are nothing to ignore. Plus you might want to keep in mind that both director Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams (collaborating as usual) ended up making two successful films in the very same year — with the other being “The Adventures of Tintin” (reviewed HERE).
Video Quality on this release is in full 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec on a BD-50 (50 gigabyte dual-layered Blu-ray Disc) in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. According to the technical specifications for the aspect ratio over at IMDb this was shot on Super 35MM film using Arricam and Arriflex cameras. The digital transfer here to Hi-Def via a 4K intermediate digital source is very impressive and holds an astounding amount of detail throughout the film. The beautiful scenery early on in the film looks absolutely breathtaking and is sure to leave anyone amazed. The black level here is solid and really helps emphasize the detail. The color palette is very vibrant throughout and flesh tones are spot-on accurate. There’s a tad bit of obvious film grain present here if you look closely but for the most part this offers a really crisp Hi-Def presentation. The excellent cinematography done by the DP (director of photography) Janusz Kaminski is done complete and utter justice here — as this rightfully so earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography. All of the painstaking efforts put forth here by the filmmakers (and even the production crew like set and costume design) pay off and look absolutely great in the Hi-Def presentation found on the Blu-ray. That being said, it should come as little surprise that this earns itself a perfect “5 Star Rating” for overall video quality.
Audio Quality on this release is presented in DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio. The first and foremost part of this mix and the highlight to the film’s audio presentation is John Williams‘s original Score. The music gets delivered brilliantly through not only primarily the front left & right channels but excellently throughout the four rear channels and LFE (bass) as well. Dialogue is very distinct here, delivered primarily through the front center channel speaker. There’s some pretty intense sound effects here especially here in the latter part of the film but the beginning of the film has its moments so-to-speak early on. Sound effects such as Joey’s mother stomping her foot 4 minutes in when Albert tries to feed Joey an apple. This actually gets some rear channel presence. Another good example of that rear channel presence for sound effects early on is 5 minutes in when a herd of sheep pass and you hear them pan across all four of the rear channel speakers. As mentioned, it obviously does get a bit more “over-the-top” later. The real highlight of this 7.1 lossless mix to me comes roughly around 58 minutes in when the British calvary make a charge on horseback at the Germans. The sound of the horses galloping, swords slashing and guns firing all come across very realistic. The 7.1 configuration does a great job of making you almost feel like you’re right there in the middle of the action and such. This is one impressive 7.1 mix as you would expect considering it received “Best Sound Editing” and “Best Sound Mixing” Academy Award nominations. “War Horse” earns itself a perfect “5 Star Rating” for audio quality. This definitely has some “demo material” moments.
Bonus Materials on this release are ALL presented in full 1080p Hi-Def (HD) video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound @320kbps — unless otherwise noted below.
DISC 1 (Blu-ray) includes:
- “War Horse: The Journey Home (19:35 – HD) is a roundtable discussion hosted by the director/producer Steven Spielberg and producer Kathleen Kennedy. Joining them you have two groups. First the cast members Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Tom Hiddleston and Toby Kebbell. Second you have the production team members Janusz Kaminski (director of photography), Rick Carter (production designer), Joanna Johnston (costume designer), Richard Curtis (co-writer of the screenplay adaptation) and Michael Kahn, A.C.E. (editor). This proves to be very informative.
- “An Extra’s Point of View” (3:06 – HD) follows the film extra Martin Dew who played many parts including both German and British soldiers.
DISC 2 (Blu-ray) contains:
- “A Filmmaking Journey” (1:04:13 – HD) is a very, very in-depth “making of”-style featurette that includes absolutely tons of on set, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with director/producer Steven Spielberg as well as other crew members and cast.
- “Editing & Scoring” (8:53 – HD) has the film editor Michael Kahn and composer John Williams discussing their parts in contributing to the film. As most folks know John Williams has been a collaborator with director Steven Spielberg.
- “The Sounds of War Horse” (7:13 – HD) features an interview with sound designer Gary Rydstorm who gives you a guide through how he created this elaborate Academy Award nominated sound design.
- “Through the Producer’s Lens” (4:04 – HD) has producer Kathleen Kennedy sharing photos she took while they were filming. She also discusses how she came across the source material via seeing the play, also based on the novel. She was the one who told director/producer Steven Spielberg that it would make a great film.
DISC 3 (DVD) contains:
- A DVD of the film in Standard Definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is also included in this “combo pack” style Blu-ray Disc release. The featurette “War Horse: The Look” (6:30 – SD) is the only bonus material included on this disc.
DISC 4 (DVD-ROM) contains:
- A Digital Copy of the film is included on its very own DVD-ROM (not the DVD listed above). A paper insert in the packing includes the redemption code. This is compatible with both iTunes and Windows Media portable devices, as well as both Mac and PC. This is ONLY available with the 4-disc “combo pack” version.
Overall the bonus materials here prove to be rather lengthy and almost total in at an hour and a half. All of them, with the exception of one featurette (on the DVD) are presented in full 1080p HD. Director/producer Steven Spielberg is present here an enormous amount and hosts most of the featurettes himself as well as offers up very informative interviews, along with the cast and crew members. You’ll find a great deal of behind-the-scenes and on set footage here. The addition (on the 4-disc “combo pack“) of the second Blu-ray adds a whole lot more depth to the bonus materials. Yet, keep in mind that second Blu-ray is NOT included on the 2-disc version in DVD packaging; nor is the Digital Copy.
Blu-ray Disc packaging:
NOTE: The full-sized 1920×1080 files are in a .PNG file format and uncompressed. Please be patient with the slow loading times, keep in mind these files are at least 1MB (1 megabyte) in size each.