Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse': What the Critics Are Saying

In the Trenches
DreamWorks II Distribution Co. LLC

This trench shot was filmed with real explosions; only 30 effects shots were used in the movie.

Steven Spielberg's epic is called "heartfelt and marvelously crafted," and also "painfully earnest and sometimes even hokey."

War Horse, Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated film about a boy and his horse who are separated by war, will have its wide release on Christmas Day, Dec. 25.

The film is an emotional WWI journey that can be watched by the young and the old. But how did the critics feel about the movie?

PHOTOS: The Making of Steven Spielberg's 'War Horse'

Many praised the look of the movie, which was shot by Spielberg’s long-time cinematographer Janusz Kaminski the old-school way – on actual film. While some critics felt the movie poured on the emotions and sentimentality too thickly, many said they enjoyed Spielberg’s adaptation of the theater spectacle.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy wrote: “War Horse possesses a simplicity that is both its greatest strength and an ultimate liability.”

“What's appealing about the way Spielberg has made War Horse is the extent to which it recalls the way Hollywood used to produce movies for everyone,” added McCarthy. “Whatever its missteps, this is a film that kids, middle-aged adults and grandparents can all see -- together or separately -- and get something out of in their own ways. There are precious few films that fit this description today and hats off to Spielberg for making one.”


“You may find yourself resisting this sentimental pageant of early-20th-century rural English life, replete with verdant fields, muddy tweeds and damp turnips, but my strong advice is to surrender,” wrote A.O. Scott of The New York Times.

“While War Horse is, like so many of Mr. Spielberg’s films, a work of supreme artifice, it is also a self-conscious attempt to revive and pay tribute to a glorious tradition of honest, emotionally direct storytelling,” added Scott.

VIDEO: Steven Spielberg's Longtime Below-the-Line Collaborators Talk About the Legendary Director, Making 'War Horse'

“War Horse features a strong cast and the sort of impeccable production values you would expect from Spielberg -- that trademark, mystical lighting, the product of his longtime collaboration with Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski,” wrote The AP’s Christy Lemire.

Lemire however, was not as taken with the story as some critics. “It's overlong, painfully earnest and sometimes even hokey,” she added.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the film “heartfelt and marvelously crafted.”

“Spielberg keeps to the standards of the PG-13 rating without skimping on the realities of war,” added Travers. “War Horse gets to you. It's one from the heart.”