Having said that, when you're caught up in the moment it's hard to care about that. Despite its length it never drags or gets tiresome, largely because of the way it effortlessly mixes all different kinds of films into one, at once evoking the visceral warfare of Saving Private Ryan, the awe-inspiring spectacle of Jurassic Park and even, at times, the adventure of the Indiana Jones series. And it does this without feeling like it's trying to do too much at once. This really does feel like a huge mixture of all the ingredients that has made Spielberg one of the most successful directors in history.
A mention must go to the score by frequent Spielberg collaborator John Williams. He has worked with the director for almost 40 years, and it's obviously a winning combination. War Horse is just another in a long line of great Williams scores; his beautiful and epic-yet-intimate music being one of the most memorable aspects.
While the horse is the star of the show, we shouldn't forget the oh-so-important human performances. From Jeremy Irvine as Joey's faithful true owner Albert - a real find of a newcomer - to the likes of Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, and Niels Arestrup, everyone is just on the top of their game working under the direction of one of the greats.
Yes, it's as about as sentimental as you can get but, instead of feeling schmaltzy, it feels genuine and real. You'd have to be pretty cynical - or a robot! - not to at least have a lump in your throat a few times. The film offers a lot of things but ultimately it's a touching, moving, and inspiring tale of a boy and his horse.