¨Separated by war. Tested by battle. Bound by friendship. ¨
War Horse might be about a miraculous and beautiful horse, but the movie has nothing miraculous about it. It`s a well filmed movie, but the story and the performances are very melodramatic at times. The scenery is gorgeous, but the pacing is slow for a two and a half hour long movie. The Academy seemed to like this Steven Spielberg film more than I did since it received six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, but despite the excellent performance from the horse (or should I say horses?) this won`t be among my favorite films of the year. Of course it has the typical Spielberg narrative that has made him such a loveable director, but I felt it was way too melodramatic at times. War Horse is based on the novel written by Michael Morpurgo, while the screenplay was adapted by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) and Richard Curtis (Notting Hill, Bridget Jones`s Diary, and Love Actually). The main protagonist of the story is this beautiful horse (played in the most part by the same horse from Seabiscuit), but the rest of the cast in this film are far from memorable. The War scenes really didn’t impact me at all in the way that Spielberg did in Saving Private Ryan, but I guess he couldn’t go that far if he wanted to make a family film. It does have some strong scenes however that might be difficult to watch (like when the horse gets caught up in the barb wires). War Horse is a good movie, but far from memorable and one I wouldn’t enjoy watching again.
The story takes place during 1914 in a small English town named Devon where a young teen named Albert (Jeremy Irvine) is seen watching the birth of a foal. That foal grows up to be a beautiful strong horse and is taken to an auction to be sold. Devon`s father, a farmer named Ted (Peter Mullan) is mesmerized by the animal and decides to buy it despite it not being a plough horse, but a thoroughbred. Devon is happy about his father’s decision, although his mother, Rose (Emily Watson) is upset because Ted has spent more money than they can afford on an animal that won`t help them in the far. To make matters worse, their landlord (David Thewlis) wants his rent money and demands after the harvest season or else he will take the land away from them. Devon tells his parents not to worry, that he will train the horse and teach it how to plough. Together Devon and the horse, which he names Joey, accomplish the impossible and plough the land in time for the harvest. However, a heavy rain ruins the harvest and everything is lost for Ted and his family. In order to pay the rent he is forced to sell the horse to a soldier, Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston) since the country is at the brisk of war against Germany. That is how Joey begins his transition from one owner to the next, and from one band to another, after the English are defeated in a battle and the horse is taken by the Germans. Whoever his owner may be they will soon find out that he is no ordinary horse.
The cast is perhaps one of the weakest links about this movie. I didn’t find the performances very memorable and the drama seemed really forced at times. The best actor by far was the horse. Since the horse switches from one owner to another, there are several characters and different stories and some work better than others. The movie begins very slow, but once the war begins the story picks up at times. The final thirty minutes are really intense and do lift the movie, but it`s too bad it takes so long to pick up. The beginning is really slow and melodramatic and I feared the worst for this film, but thankfully it does get much better and the ending saves the movie. Even the performance from Jeremy Irvine seems to pick up in the second half (I really hated it in the first part). Tom Hiddleston`s role wasn’t very attractive either, I didn’t enjoy his performance, it seemed too forced. My favorite character in this movie was Emilie, a young girl that lived alone with her grandfather who finds the horse in a windmill. She was played by Celine Buckens and her role was hilarious. She has some funny lines, but as most characters she isn’t in this movie for too long. The barbwire scene was also pretty memorable and I loved the way the scene was resolved in such a comedic matter. If only War could be avoided in the same way. In conclusion we learn a lot from this miraculous horse and how animals too suffer in middle of men`s wars and differences. Too bad the pacing and the narrative was a little off, but the film is still worth a watch.