If you hear someone say: “They just don’t make movies like they used to,” direct them to War Horse.
I ventured out to see War Horse with a rather diverse group: A middle-aged dad, a fourteen-year-old son, a seventeen-year-old niece, and grandma—a senior who has seen her fair share of movies. Across the board, we all agreed: War Horse is a good film. No small feat, with such a range of ages, and the credit goes to director Steven Spielberg. True to Spielberg films, War Horse is complete with sprawling vistas, defining John Williams music (think Indiana Jones or Star Wars), and high aspirations.If you hear someone say: “They just don’t make movies like they used to,” direct them to War Horse,based on the children’s novel of the same name by Michael Morpurgo. They’ll find that “they,” in fact, do.
War Horse relies more on story and visuals rather than dialogue and special effects, and follows the title character, a horse named Joey, as he moves from caretaker to caretaker, country to country, and battle to battle. The film begins in England where the thoroughbred colt is bought with good intentions (albeit the wrong reasons) by a drunken farmer, played by Peter Mullan. It becomes the duty of the son (Jeremy Irvine) to train the horse and work the fields, and the horse and boy develop a lasting bond. However, the story’s about Joey—and as World War I breaks out, the horse is sold to an English captain (Tom Hiddleston) who takes him into battle and away from the English countryside. From there, this “war horse” hauls wounded troops, helps two brothers escape the frontlines, and befriends a French girl (Celine Buckens) and her grandfather (Niels Arestrup)—until once again being commandeered into service by the German army and forced to pack heavy artillery until the war’s end.
Along the way, there’s plenty of grand cinematography—the scenic shots are simply beautiful. War Horse also employs effective visual storytelling; in fact, the first five minutes tell an amazing story in itself without any dialogue. Overall, War Horse is a wholesome film with clean language and honorable characters. As a father, it’s a relief to be sitting between your son, your niece and your mother and not worry about what might happen next on screen. The PG-13 rating comes from one section of intense WWI combat footage, and several instances (albeit off-camera or implied) revolving around animal euthanasia. The intensity of the scenes comes from Spielberg’s talent for visual and auditory storytelling and not from graphic gore and blood, which is minimal compared to Spielberg’s other war films Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.
The movie is long at two hours and 26 minutes. The slowest part is toward the beginning, and once the story gets going, it moves along nicely and does not feel like it’s been a long, hard ride by the movie’s end. That said, the length is the main reason to possibly keep your younger viewers, kids under 12, from seeing the film. Other than that, War Horse is good, wholesome quality entertainment for the whole family: father, son, niece, and grandmother – a movie like “they used to make ‘em.”