By: Liz Wilson
Call me a sucker for movies about horses, but Steven Spielberg has once again hit the nail on the head. “War Horse” is a fantastic portrayal of the suffering and tragedy that befell thousands of people and animals alike during the horrifying battles of World War I. The First World War often gets left behind in American history books because its devastation failed to hit the United States as hard as it hit in Europe. But Stephen Spielberg, as always, created an emotionally charged blockbuster that brought the triumphs and challenges of war to life.
The imagery of “War Horse” brings to mind old-time epic westerns with panoramic scenes shot to highlight the breathtaking horizon. The English countryside has never looked more inviting than in the first several minutes of the film. Newcomer Jeremy Irvine plays Albert, the young son of an English farmer who has trouble making ends meet. Scottish actor Peter Mullan plays Albert’s father, Ted. When Ted is taken with a gorgeous young horse at the village auction, his actions set in motion a chain of events that will affect young Albert forever. Albert names the horse Joey and takes it upon himself to break and train the horse, creating a bond of trust between the two.
The movie takes a sad turn when Albert’s beloved horse is sold to the army and the two are separated for what could be forever. Now I don’t want to give away any more; I’m sure the animal lovers are already sucked in. But for those of you who need a bit more convincing to see a film, read on.
The acting in “War Horse” is superb—and not just by the humans. The cast of 14 horses, which each played Joey during the filming, deserve an award all their own. At times I thought the horse would open its mouth and speak. Spielberg and his crew of filmmakers, of course, deserve a lot of the credit for allowing the expressions of the horses to speak for themselves.
Each character in the film is fully developed. Even if I only got to know a character for a few minutes, I was saddened when we had to leave their story to follow another. The film also created an environment that was so moving and full of empathy, there were no “good guys” or “bad guys” in this production. The Germans and the English were each shown in an equal light. Spielberg did well to show how the horrors of war touch each side equally, and all that matters in the end is kindness and determination to a cause. As sappy as this may sound, War Horse filled my heart with every kind of emotion and sucked me into the plight of many characters that all surrounded one miraculous horse. I give “War Horse” an A+. All ages will love this film, which is sure to become a classic.
To see more about what USU was like during WWI, see “A glimpse into the past: Utah State University during WWI,” featured in the culture and diversity section.