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Monday, January 2, 2012

Review of War Horse

Caution: Spoilers!
Think War Horse is another silly animal movie? Wrong. Panning shots of the English countryside set the backdrop for a colt’s birth and eases viewers into the vast world that surrounds us all as we are welcomed into life. Young Albert Narracott and his equine counterpart, Joey, train each other in the disciplines of friendship and willpower as War Horse gets off on the right hoof.
The call of “War” inevitably tears the pair apart as they must navigate through the horrors of World War 1 in parallel journeys. This type of interwoven narrative shows the gradual development of characters in addition to creating a side-by-side comparison of what Albert and Joey will overcome to be together again. As a film geared towards the younger crowd, flagrant gore is avoided with artful suggestions of the tragedy at hand but beautifully achieves the sense of dread and helplessness indicative of war.
Certainly, the most unexpected aspect of War Horse is the lives Joey touches. From British and German soldiers to French patriots, Joey proves himself a loyal, remarkable horse capable of anything he puts his mind to. My only complaint about the film is that the German’s and French speak in accented English as opposed to their native tongues. Note: the troublesome drawback of subtitles is not lost on me. One of the finer points of the journey is the passage of Mr. Narracott’s service pennant. Not only does the banner function as a means of keeping track of Joey, but it also symbolizes the courage of each of its recipients.
My favorite moment* came in the trenches. Terrified, Joey has entangled himself in the barbed wire of no-man’s land. Lacking any source of optimism, the survival of the war horse perks the hopes of soldiers on either side of the battle. Joining forces to save Joey, a German and an Englishman cut him free. This poignant scene shows the common bond of man and our compassion for others, even animals, in a time of great struggle.
From the start of Albert and Joey’s reunion, I became a human faucet. The boys have matured into men. This notion only emphasizes the heartwarming call from Albert, in what should have been Joey’s final moments. The ending scenes of the film mirror the opening brilliantly and bring a well plotted and developed story to a close.
The simple fact that I saw this movie with my parents and pre-teen brother vouches for the movie’s accessibility across generations. After all, War Horse is timeless. The bond between human and pet tends to transcends into a connection akin to family. And after all Joey and Albert experienced together and apart, it’s no wonder there wasn’t a dry eye in the theatre during the credits. Verdict: A.
*Yes, I loved the scene between the soldiers as it dealt with Joey. My true favorite moment was when Colin (the Englishman) says to Peter (the German) “You speak good English.” To which Peter replies, “No, I speak English well.” As a beloved, nerdy scientist often proclaims, BAZINGA!


  1. Without a doubt, this is Spielberg trying his hardest to manipulate the hell out of his audience but it somehow works and brought me into the story despite some of the very corny moments. Great review.

  2. How would it be for an 11 year old? Too gory?

  3. It's classic Speilberg. Thanks for the comment, Dan!

    Lisa, my brother is 12 so I am sure your son would enjoy it!