War Horse

By Chris Daniels

“War Horse” is one of Steven Spielberg’s newest silver screen stories. His flair and panache are present, as ever. This gorgeous film pulls on the heart strings, and plays on several different emotional chords.

The story starts as you might guess: a young British lad, Albert Narracot, who is present at the birth of our four-legged hero, Joey the horse, becomes immediately entranced by the grace and majesty of said equine. As any equestrian will tell you, a bond between person and horse is about as magical and mysterious as this film alludes to.

As Joey the horse comes of age, Albert’s father, a drunk, down-and-out soldier-turned-farmer, also sees the beauty of this animal, and bids exceedingly high at auction to win Joey, but does so against his own landlord.

Albert’s father comes home with the horse, intent upon using this thoroughbred as a workhorse, tilling fields instead of running free. Unfortunately for Albert, demands on the farm soon force the horse to be sold, in order to save the family’s home. The British military purchases Joey, and off starts the wild adventure of one horse through the landscape of World War II.

Though many of the scenarios Joey faces are fantastical, this film mixes moments of great sadness, brutal war scenes and amazing joy, sprinkled throughout with laugh-out-loud humor. The unexpected humor accentuates the film, though it occasionally feels awkward, since the subject matter doesn’t lend itself to laughter and merriment. Perhaps this is what makes it so unique; it’s a delightful departure from sad stories that only have a single uplifting moment at the end.

A word of caution to all horse lovers: Joey the horse experiences what the director wants us to perceive as great physical pain, in various parts of the film. I can imagine for some equestrians this will be a bit much to handle.

The only major flaw I found in this film is that they made the horse appear overly intelligent. While I know horses to be very intelligent creatures, there was one scene in particular where Joey took the place of his buddy (another horse) in such dramatic fashion that it seems far too human-like to be plausible.

All in all, the film is a win. The cinematography alone is captivatingly beautiful. The acting, writing and music make up for whatever the film lacks in realism regarding the horse’s fantastical journey.

4 of 5 Stars.