War Horse, with Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Niels Arestrup & Steven Spielberg, director. In the run up, I heard one thing after another, all good, about this movie. Preferring to make up my own mind, I held off any prejudgment, thinking that this was going to be another film like Incredible Journey (1963). I was so surprised to see an animal portrayed as an actor! Not just a story line focused on one or more animals. This film is, at the very least, equal to The Yearling (with Gregory Peck), Old Yeller (with Dorothy McGuire) & Willard (with Bruce Davison & Ernest Borgnine), one of my early favorites. In each of these films, humans & animals each interacted equally (in my opinion) & a great film was the result.
Irvine is a new actor, who will mature over time into something to talk about. Right now, he’s a good boy.
The film begins on the eve of World War One in Devon, England. A boy (Irvine) first sees a mare give birth to a feisty colt & is immediately fascinated. The relationship between them begins when it turns out the horse (Joey) is purchased by his father & he is put to train the beast. War breaks out & the beautiful horse is taken by a kind, military officer as his battle mount.
Watson & Mullan are great as the boy’s parents on the poor farm. Watson is fantastic with emotion, as the suffering mother & Mullan plays well the crippled father, haunted by wars past, a crippled leg & too much drink. They’re a great team.
Another team of two (there are several) Hiddleston & Cumberbatch (who is mentioned in my previous review) superbly take us (& Joey the horse) into the war.
This isn’t a film only about an a boy & his beloved companion. It’s also another statement on the absolute & surprising horrors of WWI. When the world reached adulthood & its childhood of so many millenia, was ripped away. I found myself hating the Germans again, but was saved by Spielberg’s expert depiction of humanity & its multi-perspective dimensions. Our governments may (& do) have their agendas; but it is humanity & the little stories, that detail history & life.
You know a film is great when you find yourself tearing up one minute – cheering the next, hand-on-mouth in anticipation – all in (seemingly) infinite cycles. Spielberg is, yet again, the master director/creator/visionary.
This story would make Odysseus proud. What an adventure!
Please, please take the time to see this film. I recommend it because it will give you hope, that along with all the evils in the world, it is simple love that is ultimately permanent & lasting. Anyone that “knows” animals will understand.