War Horse

War Horse

Static Mass Rating: 5/5

Release date: January 13th, 2012
Certificate (US): 12A
Running time: 146 minutes

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Lee Hall and Richard Curtis
Producers: Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy
Composer: John Williams

Cast: Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, Tom Hiddleston

I don’t know why but animal themed films always seem to pull on our emotional chords. Maybe it’s because we’ve all once in our lives owned a pet and felt the love and loyalty which they brought to us. Having just about got over the emotional heartbreak of films such as Free Willy (1993) and Marley and Me (2003) I decided to be brave and watch War Horse. How sad could it really be?

It begins against the sweeping canvas of rural Devon, England where Joey the horse is born, witnessed by Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine). Much to his mother Rose’s (Emily Watson) dismay, his father Ted (Peter Mullan) buys the horse at a market and against expectations, Albert begins a remarkable friendship communicating through clicking noises and ploughing the impossible stony top field to save the family from financial problems.

War Horse

As World War One begins they are forcefully separated as Joey is sold and sent to work with British cavalry on the front line. Albert can’t forget his tight bond with the remarkable creature and is deeply devastated. When he is old enough, he enlists in an effort to reunite himself with the horse.

In the meantime the film follows Joey’s incredible journey as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets from German soldiers, including two runaway brothers (Leonhard Carow and David Kross), to a French farmer (Niels Arestrup) and his granddaughter (Celine Buckens). This is before the story reaches its dramatic and emotional climax in the barbed wired heart of No Man’s Land.

Based on Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s book and Nick Stafford’s successful theatre production, which opened in 2007, of the same name, War Horse is a deeply moving film, which doesn’t hold any barriers from devastating the audience. It’s very rare that a book and theatre adaptation transpires into anything once it’s adapted into a film but this does on all levels. It leaves you wondering how it worked out on stage in the first place.

It has a mixed variety of old fashioned feelings mainly in the dialogue and settings as well as a contemporary feel in its production values and effects. The settings and action sequences are epic, although not particularly as graphic as Saving Private Ryan (1998). Spielberg captures the real nature of modern warfare: the mud, the fear, the chaos and the sheer waste of lives. This works brilliantly together. Aided by the fabulous score from John Williams, you’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel captivated by the sentimental values of the film.

War Horse

Before seeing it, I had doubts to how the film would express the experiences of the horse through its odyssey but was impressed with the emphasis on emotions conveyed through the horse’s eyes. If animals could win an Oscar the horses who played Joey would have won.

War Horse has very strong themes of acceptance, friendship, love and hope. Yes, it’s very cheesy and far fetched at times but with the current state of affairs in the world, it makes a change to see a film which hammers home the importance of loyalty and friendship and helps you realise that hope is what we need to make it through the hard times.

What I love about Spielberg’s work is that he can play with our emotions. Jaws (1975) terrified us to go in the water, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Hook (1991) helped us to believe in the unbelievable and Schindler’s List (1993) devastated us. As a director he is remarkable and often applies the same themes to his films, especially the themes of hope and faith. I love how often the main characters are not action heroes but ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. It helps us as the audience relate to how they would react.

Animal lovers beware. I can’t even lie, the film had reduced me to tears in the first fifteen minutes, and I hardly stopped for air throughout the duration of it. The final scene reduced us to sobbing. How I didn’t just emotionally break down I’ll never know. No one left the screen until the house lights had brightened up the room for the same reason as me – to dry our eyes.

Reminiscent of Spielberg’s earlier work and nominated for two Golden Globe awards (Best Motion Picture, Drama and Best Original Score) War Horse is a must see. I loved the book, loved the stage production and I loved this film. I am now emotionally fragile.

About Jamie Suckley

Jamie Suckley

Jamie, editor for Cult Movies at Static Mass, is a 24 year old media studies graduate from Sheffield, who likes nothing better than watching films. If he was to star in a horror film he’d like to be the first one killed (think Drew Barrymore in Scream).

He has a keen interest in horror which started when he was a child. Due to his hyperactive behaviour his cousins made him watch films they thought would calm him down- They were wrong! It was watching Hellraiser and Killer Klowns from Outer Space that his passion for horror began. Over the years this developed into a passion for zombies, madmen, mutated animals and all things gore.

When he’s not working, in his dream world, worrying about zombie epidemics or watching films, he can be found on Twitter sharing his thoughts and bringing his dream world into reality.

You can follow Jamie on Twitter @JamieSuckley.