If ever there was a film that can be broken down into two halfs, 'War Horse' is it. I don't just mean for the peacetime / wartime parts, as that has been done on many occasions. What l am referring to is that the first half of the film really got on my nerves and annoyed me, as it was so over the top as far as a predictable story crammed with annoying over emotional characters could be, to the extent that the film was switched off for the day and nearly not restarted the following day. The 'Devon' accents didn't help, as they made everyone sound stupid, and it was all too jolly, nice and clean, with the locals even coming to watch a field being ploughed ("Come on Joey - I know you can do it"). Throw in an evil landlord, a heroic past for the drunken father / farmer, and a race on the horse with the poshos in their car, and l was looking for a cat to kick to ease my frustrations (but we have non left).
The second half, once the army horse racing was finished with, was by no means perfect, but at least you started to get immersed and empathetic. The horse was still the best actor, even if a few were used (such expressive eyes!), and the scenes of him running across the front and along the trenches were superbly done. You felt more for the horse all the way through the film, and maybe it was a deliberate ploy by Steven Spielberg, but the other actors were (on the whole) stereotypical caricatures, and undeserving of sympathy from the viewers. The (human) stars for me were the French grandad (Niels Arestrup) and the German private Friedrich (Nicolos Bro) who loved the horses in his care. Some beautiful scenery, colours and settings were highlighted, but even though the odd tear may have been shed (obviously by the FPO), there was a huge feeling of disappointment about the beginning, which the second half never quite made up for.
I still wouldn't mind seeing the stage play though.