War Horse Movie Review

I alway enjoy stories that, with the right storyteller and the correct presentation, allow the reader or viewer to celebrate the birth of a hero and follow them through their life to the tragedy of their death. War Horse is one such story. Albert Narracott, played by Jeremy Irvine – a relatively new actor who’s just beginning to show his stripes – witnesses the birth and maturity of a beautiful and strong horse that commands a little too much attention wherever it goes. Albert’s father – a drunk played by Peter Mullan (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Trainspotting, Session 9) – nearly shoots the horse after putting his farm on the line to keep it for Albert who assures his father that he can train the horse to plow the field on their property even though it’s the incorrect breed to do such work. His mother, Emily Watson (The Waterhorse: Legend of the Deep, Corpse Bride, Red Dragon), watches from a nearby fence as Albert gets the horse to till the stoney land of their property before telling off their condescending landlord, David Thewlis (Harry Potter Movies 3 – 7 Part 2, Kingdom of Heaven, Anonymous). Albert’s dad eventually sells the horse to the army in order to keep his farm as the first stages of WW: I begin to unfold. As the bond between Albert and Joey – Albert’s name for the horse – strengthens, it’s difficult for Albert to say goodbye especially when horses are essentially disposable to the army. Joey’s tale really begins during the lonely arc of his life where he is subjected to numerous tribulations throughout wartime England and Germany. After a failed charge by the English army headed by Captain Nicholls portrayed by Tom Hiddleston (Unrelated, Archipelago, Thor) German soldiers take control of Joey and use him for hauling heavy artillery uphill as horses with muddy hooves and bloody knees collapse to his left and right. When a horse falls, it is immediately disposed of with a gunshot to the head and removed from the line. With the help of a German officer who is determined to rescue his younger brother before he sees the front lines of combat, Joey escapes only to be briefly adopted by a Belgian girl – Celine Buckens, another fresh actress – before he is repossessed by the desperate ground forces of the German army as they take everything else from the girl and her grandfather, played by Niels Arestrup (The Big Picture, Farewell, A Prophet). There’s little love in this accurate vision of WW: I. Steven Spielberg delivers an honest and artful view of the trenches, the perpetual threat of death surrounding the body-strewn war-grounds, and the ominous booms of artillery fire surrounding each of Joey’s changing owners as he is shuffled around the deadly battlefields of Europe. Two years after the war begins and Albert is of age, he enlists in the army where he and the other English soldiers relentlessly race a mounted machine gun near an adjacent trench only to be bombarded with mustard gas. Spielberg is delicate as he expresses the gruesome woes of pre-advanced technological warfare during the sixth largest war in world history. As the gas fills the trenches, Albert’s best friend from home, Robert Emms (Anonymous, Monday Monday, The Street) is consumed and the camera fills with the white cloud before dissolving to Joey’s short-lived attempt at trying to escape from the German forces where he ends up tangled in barbed wire in the middle of ‘No Man’s Land’. The cinematography and use of European landscapes is magnificent. Based on the original novel by Michael Morpurgo, War Horse is a sincere movie, appropriate for ages 13 and up that, even though it is a war film, doesn’t require a tough stomach to get through.

– Benjamin Allen
4 out of 5 stars (3.80)

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