War Horse Movie Review
In Dartmoor, 1914, To his wife’s dismay farmer Ted Narracott (John Mullan) buys a thoroughbred horse rather than a plough animal but his teenaged son Albert (Jeremy Irvine) trains the horse, calls him Joey and the two becoming inseparable. When his harvest fails the farmer has to sell Joey to the British cavalry and he is shipped to France where, after a disastrous offensive he is captured by the Germans. Albert joins the war to find his Joey but fears that he’ll never see his horse again. Will Albert and Joey return home together?
This is a sweet film directed with style by Steven Spielberg and only he can bring that balance of awe and sentimentality to the cinema screen. I have to admit that I wasn’t interested in this film on hearing about it though the trailers made me just that slight bit intrigued by it. On viewing this epic piece about one boy and his horse, you can really tell, if it wasn’t evident already, that Spielberg knows how to pull on your emotions while bringing the book and stage play to the screen with much aplomb.
The cast are superb with newcomer Jeremy Irvine giving the wide eyed look that Spielberg loves so much while the rest of the film is peppered with stunning character actors. John Mullan, David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch pop up in limited roles and all of them do what they can with a short amount of screen time. But the real star of the film is the horse, Joey, played by fourteen different horses during the course of filming and although a lot happens to the horse, the American Humane Society awarded the film and ‘Outstanding’ rating for the care that was taken of all the animals during the production.
Oscar winning composer John Williams yet again wrote the orchestral music for this film, bringing a vibrant, energetic eloquence to the music. Although at times it seems to signpost the film, as to guide the audience on what emotions they should be feeling at any given time but despite that it is a masterpiece that only he can deliver. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski deftly brings us on a journey through the visuals too, bringing us from the sun-drenched Dartmoor vistas to the battlefields of no man’s land, complimenting Joey’s descent into hell as he gets thrust into the war. While the last scene has crimson skies and silhouettes which hark back to ‘Gone with the Wind’ in its visual style and while jarring compared to the rest of the film it is a fitting end to a breath-taking film.
This movie harks back to the old Spielberg films like ‘Empire of the Sun’ and ‘The Color Purple’, the golden age of his films but it doesn’t quite reach the heights of those experiences. Hopefully it means Spielberg is back to doing what he does best, after the downbeat films he made in the noughties, and that in the future we’ll have family friendly crowd pleasing epics which delight and enthral in equal measure.
‘War Horse’ is in cinemas now.