'War Horse' trailer: Steven Spielberg uses beauty to explore ugliness of war

If there’s a way to navigate out of hell, maybe it’s through grace.

By that logic, Steven Spielberg’s tactic in adapting the play and novel War Horse would make perfect sense: we’re all aware (though maybe never enough) of the horrors and ugliness of war, but rarely is it contrasted through the lens of beauty and innocence that at once surrounds and is engulfed by it.

The first impression of Spielberg’s teaser trailer for the movie (out Dec. 28) is simply: God, that’s gorgeous — which is jarring since the opening shot is of a vast landscape reduced to a cinder as the title character, a farm horse named Joey, frantically gallops for its life, just inches ahead of the mortars.

See below for a look at the trailer:

Due respect must be paid to cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg’s longtime collaborator, who turns a backlit battlefield into a thing of wonder.

It’s that jarring feeling that makes War Horse a different animal (no pun intended) from Saving Private Ryan, a story Kaminski and Spielberg told in a much less elegiac fashion, preferring to thrust the viewer into the washed-out grit, smoke, and blood to underscore the nightmare of war. But that was an R-rated story of sacrifice, and War Horse (aiming for a PG-13 rating) is a story of hope — one marked with tragedy and pain, but retaining the bright eyes of its protagonist.

Again, the hero isn’t a person, but rather that simple horse who passes from the boy who owned and trained him on a peaceful farm in England (Jeremy Irvine) to a wary British army captain (Tom Hiddleston, in noble form after playing the villain Loki in Thor) who chooses him as his mount when the war first began, and seemed to be something that would end soon in happy victory.

As anyone who studied World War I in grade school knows, things didn’t turn out so easy. Joey embarks on an odyssey-like journey through the raging battle, taken in by various owners — two frightened boys (David Kross and Leonard Carow), a deserting German soldier, and a young French girl and her grandfather (A Prophet‘s Niels Arestrup, who speaks the trailer’s only dialogue.) During this time, Albert, the boy who raised him, also joins the war effort — though the secret, almost childishly naive, dream that pulls him through the fighting is that he will somehow find his horse again.

“Can you imagine flying over a war and you know you can never look down? You have to look forward, or you’ll never get home,” the grandfather says.

What’s unspoken is that even if you make it back after something like that, it can never be the same you.

The best-selling 1982 young adult novel by Michael Morpurgo was adapted into a stage play using puppet horses — a description that fails to do justice to their uncanny lifelike qualities. After the London show (which is still running) crossed the pond to Broadway this spring, it recently picked up the Tony for Best Play. Judging by this trailer, and the movie’s Oscar-friendly release date, Spielberg’s version of the tale also seems destined to become an awards contender.

For movie news, follow EW’s Anthony Breznican on Twitter: @Breznican

Comments (45 total) Add your comment
Page: 1 2
  • graeme

    Absolutely beautiful. That trailer just got me choked up.

    • LOL

      Incredibly boring. Hopefully, this is just the case of a poorly made trailer. The movie has GOT to be better than this.

      • FILMED!

        hey jerk… the trailer is about how beautiful the cinematography is, not how exciting the movie looks

    • Michael

      I saw this musical in London, and it was SO AMAZING! I’m sure this film is going to be amazing too, and probably win the Best Picture Oscar in 2012.

  • Chelsea

    Oooh, DAVID KROSS!!!! How I wish he was playing Peeta. This looks amazing.

  • harry


  • Mr. Holloway

    Is it too early to take Kaminski for Best Cinematography in my Oscar pool?

    • crispy

      Kaminski is always my pick for Cinematography. The man is brilliant.

      • Mr. Holloway

        Went to his IMDb page earlier today after readin this item, and was mildly surprised that he’s “only” been nominated for an Oscar for time. (He’s won twice, but it still felt like it should’ve been more to me.)

      • crispy

        That is surprising. I wonder if it’s because his skills are often overlooked on the Spielberg flicks that aren’t exactly Oscar material.

      • Mr. Holloway

        Yikes, *four *times. (I must’ve been drunk when I typed that previous comment.)

        You have a point. Off the top of my head, I’d say he deserved noms for “Minority Report” and “A.I.”, two films that didn’t exactly light up Oscar ballots but looked terrific. (And that I personally love.)

    • Jess

      I wouldn’t just yet. I’d go for Emmanuel Lubezki from Tree of Life. That movie was gorgeous.

      • Mr. Holloway

        Great point.

  • mylady

    The film looks like Speilberg’s usual sickly sweet nonsense. They shoudl have picked a better director.

    • Chelsea

      Yes, yes because Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan are so “sickly sweet”.

    • ml

      Jaws was sickly sweet as well and the scene from Minority Report when he eats the rotten food and milk. A better director? He is arguably one of the best directors of all time.

    • Connor

      Yes, it is too early.

  • Phil e

    I cried just from watching the trailer!
    If the trailer had such an impact, imagine what the film will do…
    They should just give the Best Picture Oscar to this film already

  • shane

    I love that Phil e !
    I hope so.
    Its so good to see Steven back behind the camera and not just producing.

  • mandm

    I am pretty sure he chose himself to direct and produce since it is being done at dream works.

  • Bethie R.

    When I cry just watching the trailer, I don’t know if I can handle the entire movie.

  • JPX

    My first impression of the trailer is, “God, how boring!” I practically nodded off 30 seconds into it. For those who “cried” during the trailer; get a life.

    • LOL

      This ^^^^^

  • Sarah

    I got choked up too. The trailer is beautiful and I’m anxious to see this movie.

  • DC

    Just a small correction; the play did not travel “from London to Broadway.” It is still alive and doing quite well in the West End. The Broadway play is a different production.

    • Kelsey

      Yes, I was going to say! It’s still on in London. I haven’t seen it, but heard it’s an amazing production.

    • Theatre Degree

      It is still in the West End, but the production on Broadway is the same. It’s the same play.

  • Sally Fraser

    The beautiful aerial shot of the village with the church tower and the tors of Dartmoor beyond is Sheepstor in Devon, near where I live. Give that man Janusz Kamiński an Oscar for his cinematography – it’s ravishingly gorgeous

    • Wobster

      Oooh lucky you. It looks beautiful.

  • Rush

    WWI was a useless war, started through lies and arrogance, intended to salve the egos of disconnected rulers, killed millions of regular people, destroyed the lives of many others, and threw several countries into economic turmoil. See any potential for contemporary allegory?

    • PJ

      Something tells me you don’t get invited to a lot of parties.

  • paige


Page: 1 2
Add your comment
The rules: Keep it clean, and stay on the subject - or we may delete your comment. If you see inappropriate language, e-mail us. An asterisk (*) indicates a required field.

When you click on the "Post Comment" button above to submit your comments, you are indicating your acceptance of and are agreeing to the Terms of Service. You can also read our Privacy Policy.

Latest Videos in Movies


From Our Partners

TV Recaps

Powered by WordPress.com VIP