War Horse movie review

Posted on 15 December 2011
By Miv Evans
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This is an epic tale about a valiant horse who finds himself in battlefields far from home and, as we follow his tumultuous journey, it becomes clear that the characters are merely passing ships and our only companion will be the courageous steed who, time and again, refuses to lie down.

Albert (Jeremy Irvine) is 16 and living on a farm in Devon, England, when his father (Peter Mullan) buys Joey, a wild young stallion. Joey responds to Albert’s warmth and natural training skills and the two soon become a perfect working team. But then World War 1 breaks out and Albert is devastated when Joey is sold to the army to become a war horse. Joey survives his first battle but his rider does not and it is from here that the riderless mount goes on his lonesome way.

There is something desperately sad about a horse running its heart out when the rider has fallen, and if we had not been completely smitten with Joey before, we would be so now. Our loyalties could not be etched more firmly as Joey’s story spans countries and years, and we judge the people he encounters by their behavior to our treasured friend. This is a simple yardstick but makes every character instantly relatable, pulls us into each new adventure and, as difficult as it is to tell a tale from more than one person’s point of view, this cleverly constructed story does just that.

Unfortunately, however, the filmmakers slip into sentimental-land a little too often which could have been avoided if they had had more faith in the great film they were making. Also, there’s a definite point when Joey’s journey ends but, despite this, the movie goes on, and on, and forever on, creating a series of impossible coincidences that take us into melodrama. This is a shame as what has gone before has been quite compelling.

This film also reminds us that some grudges never die and that Germany lost the two world wars it started yet now, just a few decades later, has full control of Europe (officially it’s France and Germany, but we all know how that goes). But at least the 21st Century Third Reich were a little more subtle and no riders or horses were lost as the invaders got on with the business of conquering their neighbors without so much as firing a bullet.

Directed and produced by Steven Spielberg


USA – 25 December 2011
UK – 13 January 2012