On Christmas night, my sister, dad, and I went and saw War Horse at the local movie theater. I was pretty excited to go see the movie. I also noticed that my sister and I have sort of started a little mini tradition — movies during Christmas. A few years ago we went and saw Avatar on Christmas Eve, my first 3D movie. The film actually stopped with 5 minutes left and we ended up getting a refund. Very weird.
Disclaimer: bring tissues!
War Horse tells the story of Albert Narracott and his bond with his horse, Joey. His father is a poor farmer in Devon, England. Almost on the brink of losing their farm, Albert’s father goes to town to buy a horse to help plow their rocky fields. After some reckless bidding, he ends up buying Joey, a part-thoroughbred horse that looks more poised for the show ring than donning a plow harness. Albert falls for the horse immediately and begins training Joey with the hopes of showing his father how strong and valuable Joey really is. Suddenly, Britain goes to war with Germany and suddenly everyone’s lives change. Joey is sold to a British cavalry soldier, who promises Albert that he will take care of him and return him once the war is over. The film tells the story of Albert’s journey to find Joey, and Joey’s journey home through the atrocities of war.
Like most Spielberg films, this one did not disappoint. He very much kept it in the vein of its history – War Horse was originally a children’s book. When there were deaths (both human and equine), they were treated artfully and with respect – you never saw either in full view. The cinematography was absolutely breathtaking. I read that they filled the scenes in Devon on location in Devon, England — and you can tell. The green grass is so vibrant, it feels like it’s going to jump off the screen. The whole overarching theme of the film was the concept of perseverance at any cost. Joey’s spirit to live carried himself across the barren death field of war back home. All the characters in the film were trying desperately to survive their own personal war. There is one scene in particular where Emilie’s grandfather tells her a story about French carrier pigeons and how they are the bravest fighters in war — because they must fly over all the chaos and tragety of war in order to get home. They cannot look down at the pain, they must keep looking forward. Talk about inspirational!
The one complaint I have overall is that for a film about war, there were only two battle scenes. For a director who is THE director when it comes to war (Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, The Pacific) the battles were lacking. The final battle scene in no-man’s-land, however, is so moving and will make you feel good about humanity in a way that no movie recently has made me feel. Both my dad, my sister, and I all had our hands on our mouths and our butts on the edges of our seats for those scenes.
The main reason I wanted to see War Horse was because of the story of the boy’s relationship with the horse. As you may or may not know, I rode for 16 years and owned a horse, Ace, for 5 years. My relationship with Ace was very similar to Albert’s relationship with Joey. Like Albert, I also trained my horse and the man hours and labor that go into training a horse builds a bond that is so close there is no other way to explain it than a mother/child bond. I too also had to sell my horse, so the scene where Albert is saying goodbye to Joey left me a giant puddle on the floor of the theater. I know Ace did not end up going to war, he went to a training barn where tons of little girls love him and he’s having a great time, but still — it’s tough. It’s a bond that only other riders understand. Horses are EXTREMELY smart and expressive, and I think Spielberg captured that beautifully. Overall, two thumbs up — we all loved it.