Review: War Horse
One horse will overcome separation and conflict in order to reunite with its owner. Steven Spielberg is finally back in the director chair after a few years for producing. This time he has adapted the fictional story, War Horse, that recently had a Tony award winning play. Thus the movie could never fail to garner tons of awards and be an instant classic, right? Not quite.
Albert Narracott comes from a simple family. They are farmers who rely on the land to make ends meat. Albert’s father is supposed to go to auction and pick out a horse able to pull their plow and provide for them. Instead he ends up coming home with what seems to be a show horse. The horse, Joey, has a lot to learn and needs to do so post-haste. Joey cost the family much more than they anticipated paying and they need a plentiful harvest if they are to keep their home.
Albert and Joey share a bond that is inseparable. The only thing that will tear them apart is money and WW1. Joey ends up being sold to a young soldier (Tom Hiddleston) who takes the horse to war. Joey ends up embarking on a journey far away from home and trying to survive the horrors of combat.
Spielberg is known for his sappy movies and War Horse is no exception to the rule. Along with his legendary composer, John Williams, the two of them have the power to make grown men cry. The war sequences are certainly spectacles, but this is the cleanest war I’ve ever seen. After seeing his take on WWII in Saving Private Ryan, it seems that he kept away from making this a serious affair. His tolerance on punishment releases when the horse encounters trial after trial of significant pain. Joey was actually played by fourteen different horses and some of them really take the punishment*. Seeing these majestic animals suffer will tear most audiences apart.
Jeremy Irvine was fine as Albert, but not spectacular. He needed to hold the film on his own at points and instead of being captivating, it felt very by the numbers. While Tom Hiddleston does get some spotlight as the lead, his time is cut far too short. Some of the other people Joey encounters range from troops to families and each has their own strengths and weaknesses. The most memorable performances were from Albert’s parents (Peter Mullan and Emily Watson) featured early in the film.
A Spielberg feature is always worth seeing. Whether it be for the spectacle or something new from a legendary filmmaker, his films are always required viewing. Unfortunately, War Horse isn’t among his best films and comes off as another miss in same way Munich was. It has all the bravado and heart, but always remains very by the numbers. Spielberg is capable of making a better movie than this and that’s why War Horse disappoints. Regardless, check out War Horse and see another movie by one of cinemas legends.
3.5 Hearts / 5