Steven Spielberg crafts beautiful films. War Horse is no exception. It looks rich and it took riches to film all the sumptuous big scenes. Like other SS movies it suffers from a severe case of Sesame Street Itis. WH has a lot of location changes with new characters entering then departing the story. Only a few of the “main” characters stay main for long. Except for the original family (mom, dad and son) and their horse, Joey.
Pre WWI, the family takes ownership of Joey and things start happening, which set up other events to come in the story. How obvious are these events? If you are a Sesame Street fan and you watch the series 10 weeks in a row and the first show was brought to us by the letter A and the 10th show is sponsored by the letter J, it’s a sure thing tomorrows show is going to be brought to us by…..well, you can figure it out. The big events that make up all the emotional finales in WH are all Sesame Street week 11 obvious.
Joey plays a role in a series of events to try to save the farm from the evil landlord. During those scenes we see bits and pieces from other animal/buddy films like The Man from Snowy River (1982), the stump removing scene from Shane (1953) and any of the Lassie movies. Also a nod to Friendly Persuasion (1956) when the nasty goose from FP seems to be a direct relation of the mean goose in WH.
As the plot thickens, boy and horse are separated as Joey goes off to war. This had to happen or the film would have been called War-Time Stay At Home Horse. Here director Spielberg directs with the same grittiness and gory detail as he did in Saving Private Ryan (1998). The carnage and destruction are back except in a different conflict. Many of the images are stunning, especially those in the WWI trenches.
As Joey makes his way through the mess he always encounters a loving human being (English, German or French) who help and care for him. Others just want him shot and out of the way. Through it all the beautiful score by John Williams keeps everything together and emotionally connected.
While it does suffer from schmaltzy and the obvious, it is also gorgeous to behold and emotionally satisfying ;while it never loses sight of its main theme; the relationship between man and animal.
Trigger (originally known as Golden Cloud b. 1932 d. 1965) would have loved this movie. After the “obvious” finale, most in the audience applauded and wiped away the “obvious” tears.
Rated 3.5 out of 4.0 reasons that with Trigger gone, Joey has got to be current holder of the title Smartest Horse in the Movies.