Movie Roundup 2012: January Part One (Warhorse And The Descendants)

2012 has been a great year for movies. With a superb array of films coming from almost every genre we at Sound And Motion wanted to celebrate this fact, and bring you our lowdown on what we think have been the key pictures this year, from January to December.



Released: January 13th.
Starring: Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, and Tom Hiddleston.
Directed by: Steven Spielberg.

With hatred and fear rife on opposing sides, men share humanity and compassion towards the animals that serve them in Stephen Spielberg’s latest masterwork “War Horse”, the tale of a young thoroughbred taken from a farm in Devon that changes and inspires the lives of everyone he meets.

Albert (Jeremy Irvine) falls instantly in love with a young horse his father brings home after a bitterly fought auction battle. A racing stallion of little use on the hard draft fields Joey is a clear mistake from the beginning, but through love, determination, and a desire to prove wrong a hated landlord (David Thewlis) he soon becomes as valued a family member as any other. All changes though as war breaks out when Albert’s father (Peter Mullan) is forced to sell the horse to the sympathetic Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston), wrenching horse from boy.

Across the channel we see Joey’s place in the great war change, from a misguided cavalry charge, to the home of a French farmer’s granddaughter and the muddied and bloodied fields of the Somme, as he moves from one side to another, working as a slave pulling artillery, and experiencing the horror of a new age of war.

But despite some spectacular and tragically real visuals and some of the most touching animal acting seen on the silver screen in quite some time, “War Horse” is missing something; Joey and Albert are separated early on and we lose track of the young farmhand for most of the movie, therefore we are robbed of the sense of loss we could otherwise have been made to feel.


Nonetheless the film is a vivid depiction of a time when the world changed, drastically and often violently, ushering in a mechanised age, and leaving behind the days when the horse was a core part of any army.

“War Horse” is moving and charismatic, and features one of John William’s finest scores, but it is not, believe it or not, the tear jerking, heart-string puller that Steven Spielberg was hoping for.

the des


Released: January 27th.
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer, Patricia Hastie.
Directed by: Alexander Payne

In a voiceover that sounds like the one Baz Luhrmann did for “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”, Matt King (George Clooney) begins Alexander Payne’s adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings novel “The Descendants” by shattering the common misconception held by the rest of the world that Hawaii is a paradise on earth. In a brief rant, accompanied by images of poverty and grime, Matt tries to show the audience the truth, but his own life is hardly one of low social standing.

Though he tries to keep his life low key Matt is a real estate lawyer and about as close as an American can get to being an aristocrat, with a family tree with roots that stretch back to white settlers and indigenous royalty; a proud bloodline that has since become a gaggle of loud shirts and entitled douchebags.

But life isn’t all Mai Tais and relaxing on the beach for our charming protagonist; his wife (Patricia Hastie) lies in an irreversible coma after a boating accident, and to make matters worse he soon learns that she was having an affair.

Without being cliché or overly sentimental the movie manages to be moving and often very funny. There are many unlikely moments – Robert Forster’s character punches an annoying teenager, and Matt’s youngest daughter Scotty (Amora Miller) often acts like a crazy person, but not once is the film anything but believable.


Some of what happens in “The Descendants” is familiar enough territory – Matt must deal with his own crushing heartbreak while dealing with the pain of those around him, but there are many other plots and subplots that make the film interesting. Its best quality, however, is its pace, unhurried and loose, and the people within it.

The characters in the film are allowed to be free, almost living their own lives, without following along a line like in most movies. That is what makes us love them, and feel for them in their saddest moments.

“The Descendants” is a remarkable film, one that paints a beautiful picture of human imperfection and the importance of family. Sure to leave a lump in the throat of even the hardest of souls it reminds us that it’s often hard to say goodbye.

Look out for part two of our January pick featuring The Grey and Underworld: Awakening. 


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