Well, it’s not often that I see a movie worth commenting on, much less recommending, but the family and I drove about 200 miles round trip the other night to go see War Horse and it was well worth it. My wife and eleven yr old are studying WWI currently in his home-school studies and had just read the book so it didn’t take much to convince us all to load up for the trip. I think I can say without reservation, the whole family enjoyed it as much as I did. (*note to parents – it is rated PG 13)
Now hoss folks, take note; yes, you will notice that they use about six different horses to depict the equine star “Joey”. This is common in movies and forgivable. I’ve done quite a few movies with horses and it’s almost impossible to find one horse that can pull off all the gags, so doubles must be used.
As a ranch hand/cowboy it would be easy for some scenes to be perceived as corny but what the heck, Roy & Gene’s horses came when they whistled too. We must also forgive some of the more ignorant tack and equipment idiosyncrasies that happen on almost all horse movies. On the other hand, I was impressed that they used a true to the story “European looking” Thoroughbreds and not an Americanized Quarter Horses (which are often preferred for work with on movie sets because of calmer temperaments).
Part of the intrigue to me is that this movie follows the life of a horse born to a farm family in rural England, it moves through a boy’s youth and then with the horse into service in France during World War I.
The countryside scenes are breathtaking and the battle scenes are graphic, intense, realistic but not gruesome or gory.
I found it facinating that it was a war movie where there were no “good guys vs bad guys” sides taken as the horse ends up on both the English and the German’s front lines, because, as the author puts it in the book, everyone loves and respects a good horse.
It is obvious that horses of all types play a vital role in Europe during the period of time depicted in War Horse, but while the horse still played a role in warfare; tanks, machine guns, trucks and airplanes were being used to full advantage also. Through the film it is easy to visualize that this is a turning point in history.
There are many fine and exceptional moments in War Horse but this one got me, (as well as many other people, my wife tells me). The location is a devastated apocalyptic stretch of land between the English and German trenches called “No Man’s Land”. The fighting has been long and fierce, the men are impeded in miserable trenches and the conditions can be described as cruel. Yet thru the smoke of this living hell both sides notice a lone horse badly tangled in the razor wire. Touched by his plight white flags go up from both sides and we watch as the fighting stops in the eiry quiet as two soldiers climb out of their respective trenches and work their way towards the trapped animal and towards each other. Both men meet and after some discussion go to work together, enemies joining forces to free an injured animal out of love for a good horse. The irony is that upon accomplishing their goal they must shake hands and return their separate ways and once back to the relative safety of their trenches their brutal fighting must resume.
Now, if that doesn’t get to you, ya better check your pulse!
If you like big, old fashioned epic sagas like the Searchers or the Quiet Man, your gonna love War Horse. This movie, the story, and its cinematography harkens back to the work of Ford & Selsnick. Every frame is stunning and creates a spectacular backdrop for an amazing story.
I hope you enjoy it and if you’ve seen it or read the book already tell us what you thought. I’d also love to know, what is your all-time favorite horse movie?