The simplest response I can give you after viewing Steven Spielberg’s War Horse is that Steven Spielberg most certainly made it. In fact, I think that is the sole reason it was nominated in the Best Picture category for the 2012 Academy Awards. The film isn’t bad by any means, I just wasn’t astounded.
War Horse is a World War I era tale of a thoroughbred horse and the profound effect that it has on the people who encounter it. Most importantly of all is Albert, who raises the horse from an early age, trying to prove to his father Joey’s (the horse) worth. At the start of the war, Albert’s father sells Joey to a soldier, who leads him into battle against the Germans. Throughout the course of the film, we see Joey with a variety of different owners going through the turmoil of way; civilian and solider alike. Joey also serves both sides of the war, which allows the audience to sympathize with “the enemy.” Albert himself enters the war and we see the fear and dangers that he faces on the front line.
Talking to my Dad about the film, he told me that World War I had more than twice as many casualties as the Vietnam War (Wikipedia tells me that there were at least 10 million more.) With this in mind, the film paints a good picture of lives affected by the devastation of war. We see Joey interact with German deserters, loving families trying to keep the war out of reach and harsh soldier taskmasters, German and English alike. The changing of hands of the horse was a storytelling device that was a welcome surprise I enjoyed about the film. What I couldn’t get over however was the intense attachment everyone in the film had to the horse. Now I realize that War Horse is based on a play which in turn is based on a children’s novel. I’m not asking for more “realism” in my films, but the fact that Albert carried around a sketch of his long-lost horse made him either A) an immense loser or B) a character out of Equus; which is far more disturbing. I am no hater of animals by any means, and I was giving the film a chance until (SPOILER ALERT) the climax of the film where the Germans and the British stop their fighting to help Joey out of barbed wire. Because of my response my best friend says I’m an A-hole, which may be true. Regardless, times of war see losses of all kinds, and the emotional investment that is placed in one horse seems a little absurd to me. All of that is a discourse that I will allow you to have amongst yourselves entitled The Moral of Morale: Weighing the Lives of Fictional Animals vs. Fictional People; so have at it.
There are a fair amount of cameos from various British actors in the film that might have you saying things like: “Ridiculous! That’s Professor Lupin!” or “By Thor’s hammer! It’s Loki!” This would be the proper response for a nerd. If you are not a nerd, you are most likely not reading this review at all. After all is said and done, War Horse is a good movie with a lot of heart. Do I think it is Best Picture? No sir.
Final Grade: B