War Horse

Stephen Spielberg never hesitates to use every device in his filmmaker's bag of tricks: He uses a terrific children's novel written by much-heralded author Michael Morpurgo, about a boy who enlists in the British Army after his beloved horse is appropriated for the WWI cavalry.

Spielberg unabashedly makes mincemeat of our feelings, with lovely pastoral scenes, a darling colt, trench warfare, gut-wrenching battles, injured horses being shot, a truly upsetting scene with a horse hopelessly enmeshed in a snarl of barbed wire, outrageous coincidences, a happy ending with profiles silhouetted against a sunset...oh, you know, the whole spectrum of emotions. What a workout!

My biggest problem is that I have lived on a farm, so once again the city slickers strike out:
  • They don't understand contour farming, so rain washes the crop downhill.
  • They don't know that a healthy horse sleeps standing up.
  • A horse won't step up and say, "Use me! My friend's leg is hurt!"
  • WWI quartermasters turned dead horses over to the cooks! They didn't toss their carcasses into a pit.
  • You really cannot get two grown horses into an upstairs farm- house bedroom. NOTE: One of my JayFlix colleagues says it IS possible but she won't tell me how she knows....
Okay, I got that off my chest, so let me emphasize that our downtown Seattle audience applauded this film. It is beautifully shot, well acted and I am, once again, in awe of Spielberg as a filmmaker! The authentic feel of 1916 England, the hard-scrabble farm, the Devonshire landscape, the muddy battlefield, all transported us to another time and place. I really could NOT tell where the computer generated images left off and where it was real boots-on-the-ground.

This 143-minute film works very well for city folks and the PG-13 script shields us from too much blood. We only HEAR those horses being shot and newcomer Jeremy Irvine makes a wonderful film debut. Of course he is ably supported by Peter Mullan ("Boy A") and Emily Watson ("Miss Potter") as his parents.

I hope the horse is nominated for Best Horse at the Academy Awards this year. He deserves it!
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Here is a link to a preview:
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