Movie Review: War Horse

A review by LegendarySuit

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullen, Emily Watson

Plot: Young Albert enlists to service in WWI after his beloved horse, Joey, is sold to the cavalry. Albert’s hopeful journey takes him out of England and across Europe as the war rages on.

Sometimes you see a film that you say to yourself afterwards, “wow that a film.” It has the gloss, it has the showmanship, it grabs your emotions whether it’s by cheap tricks or true heart. Steven Spielberg’s War Horse is all of these things. It has an unabashed sappy nature to it and it dares you to turn it away. This is obviously nothing new for Spielberg as he is a master at doing this and yet we keep coming back. Ultimately this is because he does it so well and War Horse is the perfect example of that.

War Horse tells the story of a young horse coming to the care of a young man in England named Albert (played with bright-eyed earnest by Jeremy Irvine). Albert is given the task of training the young horse whom he names Joey, to help tend to his family’s farm. Through this time together they form a very special bond and Albert sees something very special inside Joey, something that can only be described as “remarkable”. With World War 1 looming in the country, Joey is torn away from Albert to help the British calvary and the true story of the film begins as we see Joey’s 4 year journey through the war and the people involved (including the god of mischief himself Tom Hiddleston).

When it comes to films, one thing I look for is tone. A film’s tone signifies alot of things but most importantly it shows a film knows what it is. If a film has a tone that is just all over the place I liken it to a headless chicken. It moves around a lot but never really goes anywhere because well, it can’t see where it’s going to begin with. Tone is nailed down in War Horse almost instantly. It ‘s sappy and grabs for the heart but it does so by true human stories and emotions. At the same time this sweetness is contrasted with the starkness of war. This is not Saving Private Ryan level war violence but it pushes the typical boundaries of a PG-13 film not with blood or gore but instead it’s honest portrayal of war. These two contrasting elements of heart and bluntness work exceptionally well and really lend to each other. I came to cherish several characters in the film because of the heart yet was constantly on edge that none of them were safe because of the war portrayal Spielberg presents. On technical notes, the film looks gorgeous and sounds incredible with John Williams’ score. When one of the thoughts you have during a movie is “I cannot wait to see this on Blu-ray” then you know it was a visceral experience unlike most.

Now for the cynical at heart, I see them sighing at this film. Some people just don’t like movies that are overly emotional and that’s fine. As well I can see some finding the film to be very heavy handed, that it beats its message of how extraordinary Joey is into the viewer’s head. At the end of the day however, I didn’t have an issue with any of this but I could still see where some would. There are also some admitted moments where the film is perhaps too happy g0-lucky with some cringe worthy lines or jokes but these moments are so few and far between that I really can’t see this as any more than a minor gripe.

Steven Spielberg’s War Horse is truly a fantastic film. It shows no shame in how emotional and sweet it is and that’s okay. Not every film has to be cynical and not every film has to try and be cool by being passive. Sometimes we just need an old-fashioned type of film that wears its heart on it’s sleeve and dares you not to get emotional. War Horse is that film and that is why I loved it. So go see it, take some tissues and try not to cry too loud.

Score: 9.5 out of 10