by Rick Grant
Spielberg’s epic horse film, War Horse, is noteworthy for its realistic battle scenes during the trench warfare stalemate of WWI. The bloody war sent men on horses with swords galloping to sudden death against modern artillery and high-rate-of-fire machine guns for the glory of the British empire—or some nonsense like that.
The stupid British military never adjusted to the new type of warfare, sending wave after wave of British soldiers to their deaths crossing no-man’s-land. Most all of them were mowed down by German machine guns or blown to bits by German heavy artillery. It was the invention of the battle tank that finally broke the stalemate and ushered in the era of mechanized warfare.
To hook the audience into loving the horse, an alcoholic British farmer mistakenly buys a pregnant thoroughbred mare at auction as a plow horse. The farmer’s son, Albert (Jeremy Irvine) bonds with the newborn colt and names him Joey.
There are overly contrived scenes of the boy raising his best friend Joey. But this obvious effort to manipulate the viewers’ emotions is worth eating the pablum to get to the real story—putting Joey in jeopardy dodging bullets and shrapnel.
After Joey grows to maturity, it’s unlikely he could adjust to plowing fields. Consequently, if the farmer can’t plow his fields, his landlord will evict him for nonpayment of his lease.
So, Albert must teach the horse to plow the land. In a funny shot, the horse looks back at Albert and probably thinks, “Do I look like a plow horse?” He then bolts with the plow in tow. But Albert persists and eventually the horse gets the hang of pulling the plow. Yes, the farmer grows a healthy crop. Alas, torrential rains flood the crop and leave the family destitute. The farmer now has to sell the horse to the Army. Albert finds out and runs to Joey’s rescue in the town. But it’s too late: Joey is drafted into the army.
Like in Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg shot amazingly realistic battle scenes of WWI’s carnage. After a cavalry charge into machine gun fire, Spielberg pulls back the camera on a crane to view the shocking scene of the entire regiment, including their horses, laying dead. Miraculously, Joey makes it through and is captured by the Germans.
Although the gushingly sentimental story is aimed at the Christmas Day audience, who want to get away from their creepy relatives, it’s a beautifully shot film showing the brutal realism of the tragic waste of lives lost by stubborn generals. These egomaniacal fools refused to face the fact that warfare had changed, and armored vehicles were much safer than horses. Enter the tanks!
War Horse Movie Review
by Rick Grant