I liked the bit with the horse.
The appeal of Spielberg’s war-movie-with-a-twist often lies in the animal ‘acting’, the way in which the elements of the film (especially editing and sound design) work together to create a cohesive performance, though this is obviously not new. What is more novel is the use of CGI elsewhere where real horses couldn’t practically/ethically be used, forming an effective pair for children, one hopes, and those who don’t think about these things (the fools!). As a horse love story it is of course hopelessly sentimental, hence presumably why the talentless Richard Curtis was brought on to co-adapt the stage production.
Accusations levied at Spielberg of being emotionally manipulative are wide of the mark (though of course emotional manipulation is a primary tool of a storyteller). The veteran brings to the questionable source story a real visual panache – from Ford-esque nostalgic fields to the trenches, where the art department really steps up. The episodic structure of the piece is plenty familiar to Spielberg though, and the well executed ending doesn’t shake away the fact that it is the only thing giving the piece a narrative. Joey the horse gumps his way from one sensitive owner to another and another and another, no depth to disguise the repetition. But make no mistake, this is about as good an iteration of this story as possible.