Thursday, June 20, 2013

War Horse

War Horse. Steven Spielberg. Good movie. Tom Hiddleston. Benedict Cumberbatch.
The end.

Okay, okay, that's my short version. I'll see if I can come up with something a little longer...

War Horse. Steven Spielberg's WWI epic based on a novel and a play about a remarkable horse named Joey and his journey through the war. Young and unbroken, Joey is bought by Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan) who was supposed to buy a plow horse. Ted's wife Rosie (Emily Watson) is obviously none too happy with him when he brings back the useless beauty as they need a plow horse to make the money they need to keep their farm.

The Narracott's have a nice family argument about Ted's latest foolish purchase.

Their son Albert, who has been watching Joey grow up, is already enamored, and convinces them to let him keep and train Joey -- which he does -- and the two become as inseparable as a boy and his horse can be. Albert even gets Joey to plow the field, which is nothing short of a miracle, and things are looking up... until a huge storm washes away the crop and the Narracott's are right back where they started. When Britain goes to war Ted takes the opportunity to sell Joey for much needed money. Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston) buys Joey, but promises to return him to Albert... if he can.

Promises, promises!

This is definitely a Spielberg movie. There is one dead give-away to that fact; no matter how you look at it, the leading character is a horse. No human characters get enough screen time for it to be anything else. But Joey is a good lead -- I could even praise the many horses that played him as good actors if I felt like it -- even though he never speaks we come to understand him and pull for him as he witnesses the horror of war, and finds the silver lining.

Best buds Joey and Albert.

If "main character" requirements include being human though, the title would fall to Albert, played by the then-newcomer Jeremy Irvine. Since he's starred in a couple more movies, including a version of Great Expectations that I'm almost dying to see, and see if Irvine isn't just a one-hit-wonder. In spite of being a newbie in a big Spielberg film, Irvine does a great job, and puts in a pleasing, solid performance, and holds his own against some pretty big names.

Benedict Cumberbatch, don't-know-don't-care, and Tom Hiddleston.

These guys are my favorite. I mean, really, how awesome is it that Loki and Khan were in this movie together before anyone even recognized that they were talented enough to play those iconic characters so amazingly? I find it to be... epic. And though they have small roles, they really stand out in them, and bring so much to the movie. It's amazing how quickly I became attached to those two characters. And as for "don't-know-don't-care" I feel that I should apologize... but I still don't care.

That's better. :)

It's a very large cast after all; I can't keep track of everyone. Besides the Narracott's and my favorite villains being good guys, that remarkable horse Joey crosses paths with, and makes an impact on many, many people, each very different and memorable and important in their own way. A real ensemble cast, and everyone's performances blends together ideally.

Emilie, a young French girl played by Celine Buckens.

Now, Spielberg sometimes tells his stories at the expense of reality and logic, and this film is certainly no exception, faulty logic and plot holes make appearances, and if they bother you, well, they bother you... but the beauty of his movies never really lies in the realm of realism, does it? Spielberg makes movies magical, and again, I find no exception here. It that magic that I love, and in my book, it easily overshadows some silly plot holes.

And speaking of classic Spielberg, the cinematography! Oh my goodness... there's no way I could do it justice by description, but even pictures can only show so much. (For the full effect, you know what to do!)

He might as well have left his signature on it.

My favorite thing about Spielberg is his use of imagery to create the feelings he wants convey, and the story of War Horse is completely equal and complementary to this style. The best moments in this movie are either silent, or subtext, and they're enhanced beautifully by camera work that borders on surrealism it's so perfect. Through this unique sentimental style War Horse becomes memorable a tale of courage, honor, love, and sacrifice, told episodically and sometimes with extra sap, but beautifully, artistically, and boldly. Not perfect, but if you allow it, it can sweep you away along with its many brief characters, and its brave four-legged hero, on a journey that I say is certainly worth taking.

Review number eight!


  1. I want to see this movie so badly! I always thought it looked really good. I think it's the kind of movie I would really enjoy and love. I didn't know Benedict Cumberbatch was in it! Now I really want to see it! :D

    1. It is very good, you should definitely see it! Cumberbatch doesn't get much screen time, but there's still plenty to enjoy even if he wasn't in it at all!