War Horse - 146min – PG-13
The trailer for this film lets you know you’re in for an epic emotional journey. Surprisingly, it does not give away anything about the film. I went in thinking that I had seen all of the good parts. I was so wrong. This movie has so much more than just the surface story. There are elements of family, war, pain and hope. It’s an intertwining of two stories during WWI: the horse’s journey and that of the boy. It’s an interesting study of the relationships the horse creates during the journey of the film. This movie is a green light film for its uplifting story about an indomitable spirit. Out of all of the horse movies I have seen this one is now my favorite.
The story starts out at the birth of this remarkable horse. Joey, the horse, has bonded with Albert (Jeremy Irvine) they work together on the farm. The family lands on hard times and Albert’s father, Ted (Peter Mullan), sells the horse to an Army officer (Tom Hiddleston) to make ends meet. We separate the horse and owner and watch the journey of Joey through the war.
I took the journey and was completely swept up in the story. I like the elements that you have to follow how family and connections are a constant theme. How a war is stopped if only for a moment to bring together two people who communicate and find very little difference between them.
Ted has been to war and his experience in that war has formed his life now. Rose (Emily Watson) Albert’s mother explains the reasons his father does the things that he does. As war has come to England and Albert is of military age this is foreshadowing of what is to come. It’s a transition into manhood. The son goes to war and comes back a man.
Steven Spielberg does a wonderful job of storytelling. He takes a horse and makes it a leading character. Without vocalization he gives the horse a definable personality. There are Rocky-esque story elements in this film, you have the little guy, sorry horse, fighting insurmountable odds but through a strong spirit gets the job done.
Spielberg’s attention to the details of the setting and the story never fails to enthrall me. Not all of his work has this effect on me but he does a great job here.
Spoilers are here, if you don’t want to read them gallop past this point.
David Thewlis does an excellent job as the landowner, Lyons. His snobbery and grudge against Ted is played well, so well that I wanted to smack him. It was glorious to see Rose tell him off about how to raise her son.
Watching the horse run through no man’s land was hard to watch, seeing Joey get caught in all of that barbed wire. Still hurts me to think about. But it was necessary to set up the moment of calm in the war. The truce to save the trapped horse was a great scene. A connection was made between the British solder (Toby Kebbell) and the German solder (Hinnerk Schönemann) it was great to see the bond forming, but both knowing that after this moment it’s back to business as usual. An act of kindness brings two opposing sides together.
The section with Emilie (Celine Buckens) was great and a good break in the tension. She and her grandfather (Niels Arestrup) made the horrors of war seem miles away, but it was heart breaking to see the realities of what surrounded them come back and take everything away.
What is your favorite horse movie or if you have none what is your favorite horse from a movie?