Do not expect subtlety from War Horse. This is a film that begins with sweeping shots of the English highlands and ends with a sunset that washes the screen in amber. Call me sentimental, but I was genuinely moved by this tale of a horse that becomes involved in the Great War and encounters the best of humanity and the worst, which always tries to destroy the former. Once again, director Steven Spielberg achieves an intimate portrait of individual characters within a grand vision. He genuinely believes that a horse can symbolize an angel of our better natures, and the film is all the better for that dedication to the ideal. One of the 10 best films of 2011. My review is here. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and 2-Blu-ray Combo.
Another movie in which an animal serves as a symbol, We Bought a Zoo venture too often into the realm of emotional manipulation. In this movie, an old, sick tiger serves as the substitute for Benjamin’s (Matt Damon) recently deceased wife after he and his kids (Colin Ford and Maggie Elizabeth Jones) move to a new house that happens to have a zoo attached. There’s more to the movie than that metaphor, including a plucky group of zookeepers (led by Scarlett Johansson) and an uptight inspector (John Michael Higgins) who could shut the enterprise down before it opens, but it really does stick out. My review is here. Available on DVD and Blu-ray.