WAR HORSE (PG-13 for thoroughly intense & perhaps upsetting violence): Straight off, I must admit a lack of interest in lengthy (nearly 2 1/2 hours) movies that honor the love between humans & animals, but especially with horses. From From the excellent, but over-long "Horse Whisperers" & Elizabeth Taylor's "National Velvet" to "Black Stallion" and both versions of "Black Beauty" - all entertaining & endearing as they may be - they increasingly wane for me.
That said, and despite Steven Spielberg's penchant for children's tales, blown up onto the big screen with the aid of a trusted stable of his writers, cinematographers, composers, et al - and that includes a picaresque tale written by Lee Hall & Richard Curtis (based on Michael Morpurgo's novel), Janusz Kaminski's gorgeous photography (actually shot on film stock to achieve a special coloration - especially grand during the earlier pastoral scenes), John Williams' full-blown orchestral background, Michael Kahn's expert editing, etc. - with Ben Morris's eye-popping visual effects and war scenes that Spielberg can produce so well - it's almost too much, really, to tell the simple story about a horse.
In 20th century England, circa WWI, a youth (Jeremy Irvine) raises a colt that must be sold to a British officer, and the boy enlists & searches for his horse through war battles across the French countryside. The war is experienced through the journey of this horse; it's a kind of odyssey of all that haunts Spielberg's best films: high adventure, a mix of joy & sorrow, and, above all, passionate friendship - and perhaps that's the problem here. It's a Spielberg film, nicely packaged with what has preceded in his earlier films. And then that familiar loving connection between boy & horses (Grade: a grudging B+)