Stories in war movies are usually about the triumphs or tragedies that come from it and almost always contain violence. Whether they are based on fact or are simply a work of fiction, they're also usually seen through the eyes of the soldiers that are on the battlefield. Steven Spielberg's War Horse focuses on those tragedies and triumphs, but it is actually shown through the travels of a horse involved.
Set during the First World War, War Horse tells the story of a young man named Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his horse named Joey. Albert has tamed and trained Joey over time and the two form a long-lasting bond with one another. After their long-standing friendship, the two are wedged apart when Joey is taken from Albert and is forced into the war. Joey goes off on a tour around Europe during the war and encounters several people of different nationalities. During this time, he affects their lives and we witness the true meaning of friendship, courage and humanity.
War Horse wants to be emotional and it is every now and then. However, the attempts at drawing out emotion hit a wall on a few occasions and appear overblown. I'm not an animal guy, but I find it hard to believe that a horse would evoke this much emotion from people who haven't been around it for very long. Even Albert's love for the horse seems unnatural and exaggerated. I can understand the little girl in the movie and her affections toward Joey, because she's a kid and you can easily say that she's probably always wanted a horse. When it comes to these grown men in the middle of a war, I just don't understand it. Those relationships usually seem implausible and cheesy.
Most of the film's real emotion comes from its human characters anyway and their dealings with each other. The actors who played these parts really did an exceptional job of pouring on the direct amount of emotion and personality that was needed. I got a sense that these were real people with human traits as they went on with their lives right in the middle of the largest war that they had ever seen.
I think the story and the actors were greatly helped out by the score of War Horse. It was forceful, loud and dramatic throughout. It even added some punch inside of the stale and corny parts of the film. This could be the best score out of all the ones that I've heard in 2011. It really captured the personality of battle, but still remained light enough to keep everything positive and upbeat.
The battle scenes were fantastic in my opinion. Remembering that this film is PG-13, they didn't have any blood or gore in the battles, but Spielberg did it in an artistic way that still showcases the emotions and brutality of war. It was cool to be able to only hear the bullets and explosions going on around the soldiers and yet still be able to feel the impact they brought. That and being able to see the fear and anxiousness in the eyes of some of the men helped to drive home the dramatics and help tell the story.
What might have been my favorite part in War Horse was the scene at No Man's Land. It's a scene in the middle of the war that doesn't contain any fighting and stands out to me due to its look at who we are as humans. I don't think there is any part in War Horse that signifies so much while doing so little. To me, it was the signature moment in a good film and it easily stands out more than anything else does.
With good directing, acting and music, War Horse is a film that a lot of people can get behind. I thought this movie was very artistic and dramatic. The only real problem that presented itself was the overly emotional relationships that some of the humans had with a horse most of them barely knew. Other than that, it was solid and I had no real complaints.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Film Length: 146 minutes
Release Date: December 25, 2011
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures