A video essay that made the rounds online last week examines "The Spielberg Face," director Steven Spielberg's frequent use of close-ups to illustrate a character's wide-eyed wonder and to coerce viewers into feeling the same.

A video essay that made the rounds online last week examines "The Spielberg Face," director Steven Spielberg's frequent use of close-ups to illustrate a character's wide-eyed wonder and to coerce viewers into feeling the same.

If the video included all the applicable shots in "War Horse," it would be several minutes longer. The second - and lesser - of two new Spielberg films to arrive this week presents the director at his most blatantly manipulative.

Based on a children's book and the play that was inspired by it, "War Horse" follows a horse named Joey as he moves from the farm of his devoted young trainer Albert (Jeremy Irvine) to the battlefields of World War I.

Spielberg crafts a cheesecloth-veiled allegory about the costs of war and the things that unite humankind in the story of Joey, his succession of owners, his hard work and his experiences with prolonged suffering.

Though he crafts some beautiful imagery and garners some quality performances from his sprawling cast, too often Spielberg wields his camera with a ham fist. He lingers on tight shots of the horse's buckling legs or on the mechanics of several guns pointed at the animal's head in the course of the story.

The characters in these scenes may glow with close-up awe over the horse's miraculous endurance, but fans of more nuanced filmmaking, and animal lovers, will be left squirming.