Director Steven Spielberg’s drama “War Horse” takes moviegoers on an epic journey that is as beautiful as it is compelling.
Having said that, the immediate bond that is established between the horse and his human is not as strong as it could have been, thereby limiting the movie’s sentimental potential. However, while that initial connection is kind of weak, each and every other relationship that the creature incurs over the course of his grand adventure is both powerful and poignant, resulting in a story that will sweep viewers off of their horseshoed hooves.
Set against the canvas of rural England and Europe during World War I, “War Horse” begins with the simple story of a boy and his horse. Said boy – or, more appropriately, young man – is Albert (Jeremy Irvine), who tames and trains a horse – whom he names Joey – that is purchased on a whim by his drunken father Ted (Peter Mullan).
However, Albert is forcefully parted from Joey when Ted sells the horse to a soldier (Tom Hiddleston) in the British calvary. From there, Joey moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets, including a French farmer (Niels Arestrup) and his ill granddaughter (Celine Buckens), before finding himself in the heart of No Man’s Land.
Granted, there are several other stops along the way as Joey changes hands. Needless to say, at a couple of different points during his journey, Joey is possessed by soldiers of the German army. Some of said soldiers are just as nice as the rest of the people that the horse meets while others are, quite frankly, cruel and inhumane. Therefore, “War Horse” is not always easy to watch.
In fact, that is the case more often than not, suggesting that parents may want to reconsider bringing their children to the movie theater – at least the youngest ones, anyway. However, as the saying goes, war is Hell and Spielberg wisely refuses to sugarcoat that reality in an attempt to make a more commercial motion picture. (The movie’s marketing is another story, though.)
Moreover, with heartbreaking lows come inspirational highs – and not just during the film’s finale, either. Instead, there are several little victories along the way that enlighten the human spirit. “War Horse” works well even strictly as an action/adventure but it kicks into full gallop mode every time a touching connection is made.
As already mentioned, Lee Hall and Richard Curtis’s screenplay – which is based on a novel authored by Michael Morpurgo that was made into an acclaimed stage play featuring impressive puppetry – fails to demonstrate why Albert means so much to Joey and vice versa. As a result, the viewer is not concerned that the two of them are reunited so much as the horse merely survives this dangerous ordeal.
Nonetheless, you are almost guaranteed to to shed a few tears over the course of the story – just not as many as you would have had that bond been a bit stronger. Overall, though, “War Horse” is an outstanding cinematic event that will have your heart racing during each and every moment of its somewhat sizable runtime.
“War Horse” (PG-13 – 146 minutes) is now playing at movie theaters throughout the Valley. Visit FirstLook.com for specific showtimes.