War Horse

It’s 1914 and Albert Narracott is a young man living on a farm in the beautiful English countryside. His father is an alcoholic which forces Albert and his mother to make the best decisions for their family. When Albert’s father decides to outbid everyone at an auction to purchase a horse that is beautiful and fast, but not at all suited for plowing, it starts to seem like the family will lose their farm and livelihood. Albert is resolved however that he can train the horse (which he names Joey) and fit him for work.

Despite the success that Albert’s hard work earns him, a flood ruins the family’s crop leaving the Narracott family with nothing. Well, nothing except Joey. Albert’s father sells Joey to a captain in the British military thus beginning Joey’s transformation into a war horse and his remarkable journey home.

The Good

War Horse was not a typical war film. Through showing everything through Joey’s experiences, the story remains less tainted than it would have been otherwise. This film does an incredible job showing family loyalty, determination, bravery, and kindness. In remaining neutral (Joey changes hands often and finds himself with both the English and German armies) War Horse beautifully shows the good found on both sides during the war while displaying the unfavorable as well.

The Bad

The MPAA rated this film PG13 for “intense sequences of war violence.”

This film contains some profanity, but the main thing to be wary of is the violence and tense family scenes. While visual battle wounds and blood are minimal, the fighting scenes are still extremely intense. Dead bodies are seen, but nothing gruesome. One scene contains a character being consumed by poison gas which can be frightening for some viewers. At one point in the film, a horse becomes badly ensnared in barbed wire and ends up bloody and battered. Besides that, the film has many scenes that depict the war and fighting was prevalent throughout.

As for disrespect and difficult family moments, the Narracott’s landlord is constantly belittling the Narracotts and Albert’s father in particular. In desperation, Albert’s father sells Joey and, even though Albert is respectful, it is obvious that he despises what his father has done. Two German soldiers go AWOL and the film portrays it in a rather positive way (although not entirely).

Albert’s father is a drunk, but it is shown in a very unfavorable way.

One character tells lies to the enemy who is raiding his home.

There is one scene when a young soldier asks his older brother about Italian woman and his brother simply replies that he is too young for them.

The Art

War Horse is riveting artistically. John Williams’ score is beautiful with a classical style. The score succeeds in capturing the spirit of the characters and its sweeping orchestral melodies are astounding. Williams did a brilliant job allowing us to taste the horrors, losses, and triumphs of war through music.

As for the cinematography; it’s some of the best I’ve seen. Spielberg’s directing and Janusz Kaminski’s lens work were beyond beautiful. Shots are taken from unique angles and the landscapes are full of rich and bright colors and are positively stunning. Every scene was a visual experience as it was constantly astounding how many new ways a camera could be used to tell a story or convey an emotion.

To conclude, War Horse was refreshing as a war film which was much more family friendly than most. Masterfully told, the story is one that people can relate to and the characters are real to us as their emotions are our emotions. Since we all experience fear, loss, hope, determination, failure, love, and friendship, we can all relate to War Horse in our own way.

  1. My biggest peeve with this film was the feminism- the woman wearing the pants, so to speak.

    This reviewer sounds like she has an ear for music. 😀 I love Williams’ work in general, and from what I remember of this score it, too, was good.

    As to Spielberg’s direction- he’s a master storyteller. His ability to communicate deaths without actually showing the gore actually makes the deaths all the more powerful.

    I don’t like movies about animals, in general, but this one had a lot less cheesy spots than most (while it did have a few) and had plenty enough humanity to make it quite enjoyable, even for a guy like me who doesn’t care for “animal movies.”

    I agree with you, Miss Rhoden. A beautiful film.

      • Cassandra Rhoden
      • January 6th, 2012

      I see your point about the feminism. You’re referring to Albert’s mother, right? If so, I agree with you completely. She did not submit to her husband, but, then again, her husband wasn’t loving her the way Christ loved the church… A lot in that family was less-than-ideal.

      As for the music… My brother is the one with the real ear for it. I’ve just learned from him. 😉 I bought him the War Horse soundtrack for Christmas so we were listening to it long before we even saw the film.

      I loved the comment you made about Spielberg’s directing and how not seeing the gore made the deaths all the more powerful. This film brought tears to my eyes on more than one such occasion.

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts; I really appreciated hearing them.

      God Bless!

      • Yes, Albert’s mother. Drove me nuts. The bossy, always-right wife with the lazy/dumb/drunk/otherwise worthless, tow-behind husband is a stereotype that I’m quite tired of. And the rebellious son. So, yeah, you’re right that a lot was non-ideal.

        Though I would argue that the failure for one isn’t an excuse for the failure of the other.

        Not that you would. 🙂

        (I did appreciate how she supported her husband before her son- she just didn’t support her husband when he was actually looking. :-b)

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