It’s one of those movies that you either have to see, or you don’t want to see at all. From the offset I was very against seeing Steven Spielberg’s latest movie adventure; not a single aspect of it appealed to me. But an invitation to the UK Premier seemed like too good an opportunity to turn down.
War Horse is like a teleport to a time passed, not in respect of the story setting, but in the general feel itself; Spielberg who in fairness has done little in the delivery department over the last few years, has delivered story telling so romantic of a time past, you cannot help but fall in love with this epic movie.
When Albert’s father overpays for a horse as a matter of principle he finds himself with a deadline that is impossible to meet. Joey is a horse out of his league, he’s not a workhorse, he’s a show horse purchased to carry out a workhorses duties. But Albert has faith, he believes in Joey and believes he can do a hard day’s work. As Joey delivers, and Albert forms a bond with the horse, the friendship is pushed to the limits as Joey is recruited to fight for King and Country in the war, Albert too young to fight is forced to stay at home.
War Horse is like a biblical epic, in its chapter telling; Joey sees several owners, and each tale has a level of heartache and tragedy. And here is the magic of the movie, it has a fairytale element that meets a very true war story, as a result and as in real life that story does not guarantee safe passage of the various owners. Given that Spielberg created Schindler’s List, you kind of forget that when you watch War Horse, you take onboard the “everyone’s safe” mentality that usually accompanies a Spielberg film, and then are mortified when each tale does not end in the manner you might like.
In a further echo to the past, there is something very “classic cinema” about how Spielberg has opted to make his German soldiers speak in English, but in a German accent. We have all grown familiar of late to seeing subtitles bought in to cover the non-English speaking characters, so a return to the classic view does in some ways make a nice addition to the movie.
While Joey the horse steals the show, three performers really make the movie, Jeremy Irvine in the leading role is a delight to watch, but it’s Celine Buckens as the terminally ill French girl that injects so much needed humour in a very dark place, her cheeky character sees Bucken’s charm shine through. Finally Tom Hiddleston’s delivery of Captain Nicholls is fantastic, for such a short time in the film, he is the owner character/performer that you warm to immediately, the tragedy that comes with such a bond is the first real weepie moment of the film.
War Horse will be seen by many as predictable, cliché, and just too damn nice for words, but in a world of darkness we sometimes need that to take us away and transport us to a better place, a fact that if you think about it, was the original reason movies were made, to tell a story, and provide some relief from our real lives.
Despite some of the certificates the movie is being classified with around the world, there is nothing really here to protect the kids from, yes the fighting at times can be a little bit more than you grow to expect from this kind of story, but the nice elements balance the movie out.
With 2012 being a brand new year and only just upon us, I have a real feeling for War Horse, it’s one of those movies that you will need to see this year, and one of those movies that will have people talking both at the start, and at the end of the year. For me it’s a big thumbs up, full marks to Spielberg for providing beauty and escapism, in a time we need it most.