Can love transcend time, obstacles and species? That’s the premise behind the new movie War Horse, which followed one boy’s devotion to his beloved horse and delivered on almost every level.
War Horse followed Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) who lived in the English countryside with his parents (Peter Mullan and Emily Watson) on a farm that was in debt after his father impulsively purchased an expensive horse to tick off his landlord. Albert takes a liking to the young horse and named him Joey before beginning to train him to plow the fields. Everyone believed that Albert couldn’t get it done, but he somehow defied the odds to begin the crop harvest. Unfortunately, the Narracotts hit a stroke of bad luck and had to sell Joey to the British Army to serve in the war effort. Albert is very upset and vows to reunite with his horse and ended enlisting in World War I as a soldier. Meanwhile, Joey is passed around from owner to owner during the wartime chaos. He started off as a military officer’s (Tom Hiddleston) personal horse and was passed around to multiple people that included a farmer (Niels Arestrup) caring for his sickly granddaughter. Joey is also forced to be a work horse for the other side, which nearly killed him. He survives and ended up on a perilous journey that could run right into Albert. Will Joey and Albert be able to live long enough to reunite? If so, will they remember each other?
In terms of plot, War Horse had plenty to spare and didn’t miss a beat in telling it. Despite the nearly two and a half hour running time, audiences never felt the story drag in the slightest because the story was designed to pull everyone in and make them root for Joey in his adventures. The actors did a fine job in telling the human interest part of the movie, but it was ultimately Joey’s story and it didn’t disappoint. The movie reminded audiences of past movies, such as Black Beauty or The Adventures of Milo and Otis, which followed animal protagonists who went through extraordinary odds to survive. The horse that played Joey was the perfect mixture of youthful daring and vulnerability, especially when the horse bonded with Irvine’s Albert or the farmer’s granddaughter. What also made the movie work was the various humorous subplots, such as Albert’s failed early attempts to train Joey that led to many trips in the dirt. As a director, Spielberg’s greatest storytelling strength is to mix the darkness of war (Saving Private Ryan) with the youthful innocence of a kid’s love for an animal that no one believed in or sometimes feared (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial). He provided enough sentiment to tell the story, but not to the point of overkill like some films tend to do sometimes. In terms of breakthrough performances, Irvine’s Albert was a memorable one as a young boy who became a man because he bonded with his horse in such a way that he grew up alongside him. No small feat indeed. War Horse is definitely a must see this holiday season.
War Horse was released on December 25th and is currently in theatres.
Verdict: Spielberg captures the essence of the relationship between boy and horse, while mixing in the wartime danger without missing a storytelling beat.
Movie Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: PG-13
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)