Movie Review: War Horse (2011)

Posted: September 8, 2012 in Drama


Ted Naracott (Peter Mullan) buys a thoroughbred horse, even though he’s a farmer, and needs a plow horse for his farm.  His son, Albert,  (Jeremy Irvine) loves the horse dearly, names it Joey, and teaches it to wear a harness, and pull a plow. When the rains come, and wash away Ted Narracot’s crops, he is forced to sell the horse to the British cavelry at the onset of WWI.  Captain James Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston) assures Albert that he will take good care of the horse, but Nicholls is killed shortly after taking ownership of Joey.  Joey falls into enemy hands and two German soldiers, Michael Schroder (Leornard Carow and Gunther Schroder (David Kross) use Joey to try to escape the war.  The two soldiers are shot, but Joey survives in a farm in France, where he is taken care of by a little girl, named Emilie (Celine Buckens) and her grandfather (Niels Arestrup) Joey is once again captured by the Germans, who use him to pull heavy artillery.  Joey tries to escape, and is caught in barbed wire, and freed by a German and British soldier. The British soldier wins Joey back in a coin toss.   While Joey is being freed, Albert is in the thick of the fighting as a private, and he gets temporarily blinded by German nerve gas.  Now that Joey is back in British hands, do Joey and Albert ever reunite?


Take equal parts National Velvet, and Black Stallion, add some WWI war drama and you’ve got War Horse.  The story of a boy and his love of a horse, whose love forms a bond, tested by the rigors of a brutal war.  This movie works, for some reason that defies logic. The story of how the horse escapes German captivity, not once but twice, seems nothing more than a series of coincidences, where the horse survives, and the humans are not so lucky.  The movie is entirely too long, has plot holes the size of black holes, and drags at a less than quick pace at certain points.  Despite all of that, the ending, which I entirely expected, affected me emotionally, in a way I never expected.  I suspect it had to do with the acting, these actors took mediocre material, and made it better.  Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, Emily Watson, Tom Hiddleston, Celine Buckens, and Niels Arestrup bring real emotion into what could have been mundane roles.  The cinematography is also superb, presenting the rolling hills of the British countryside, lie a picture postcard.  But War Horse remains a difficult film to categorize, it’s part family movie, but it’s also a war movie, about a particularly brutal war, WWI.  So I would not recommend that kids who are too young see this movie, because of the subtext of the war.  War is a very tricky subject to discuss with young children.  On the whole, despite many shortcomings, War Horse is worth seeing.


War Horse.  No horsing around in this movie.


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