Opening Christmas Day, this DreamWorks Studio film brings to the big screen a story based on the children’s novel of the same name, War Horse. Since it was a story originally written for children, there was some liberty taken to create a vivid and visually stimulating film that would transport you back to World War I Europe. Directed by Steven Spielberg, you can expect a seamless transition from the opening to the very end.
Despite not having the money to buy the thoroughbred, Albert’s father’s pride overtakes him and he commits to buying a horse that is not intended to do farm work. Joey, as the horse is named, becomes Albert’s best friend and does for him chores and tasks a horse of his caliber never should. Joey and Albert work together to save the family farm, only to be sold to Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston) as the war begins to mount. Distraught, Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) tried to join the military but is too young.
The story follows the horse from owner to owner, and through it, Albert becomes woven in as he joins the military effort. Nominated for two Golden Globes, War Horse features a grand view that is often associated with Spielberg films of this caliber. It is an episodic production that takes you from pre-war Britain through epic battles, grissly scenes of war and destruction, personal determination and love for a horse that somehow connects with every owner, to an ending that you hope for as the movie progresses.
It’s a very intense movie, as one would expect from a war-focused film. But just as intense as the war scenes, the interaction that each person has with Joey (played by 15 horses from foal to adulthood) is lovingly developed. As a representative of the over 8 million horses that lost their lives in World War I, Joey shows how much the war relied on the efforts of these amazing animals. Furthermore, it demonstrates that although they were often used to the point of breaking, the equine faction of the militaries were critical for more than just power. While most don’t befriend their war horse, there are those special bonds that do develop that allow the ordinary to do the extraordinary.
While it is historical fiction, we get a very good understanding of the various relationships that existed during the war as well and a glimpse at life in pre-war Europe.The cinematography is extraordinary and the entire cast transports you back to a time and place few of us would ever want to know. For adults who grew up hearing stories of World War I from their grandfathers, this movie will solidify those memories. For those of us who did not, the simplistic nature of the story sufficiently creates a narrative for a war we’ll never fully understand.
This isn’t as much a story about war as it is about courage and dedication. With a star-studded cast, and a few newcomers, War Horse is definitely an award-worthy film. The main character doesn’t speak, but his story is beautifully told. Since the story was originally penned for children, it’s more a story about the powerful human bond with nature and the dedication to caring for each other that is basic to humanity. Set in a war, the story takes on multiple dimensions but never strays far from the theme of courageous action.
Definitely not for young children, War Horse is rated PG-13. While not overly violent or gory as compared to some movies, discretion is recommended. The mostly male cast allows for the few female roles to shine and both Emily Watson (Rosie Narracott) and Celine Buckens (Emilie) are wonderful and reel you further in to the theme.
War Horse Movie Trailer
Directed by Steven Spielberg; written by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo; and produced by longtime partners Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy. The movie is released by DreamWorks Pictures and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Run time: 2 hours 26 minutes.
Opens December 25, 2011
Disclosure: I was invited to a press screening and did not pay to see the movie. I was not required to write about the movie as a condition of the invitation. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.