When people say “They don’t make movies like that anymore,” they’re referring to films like War Horse, Steven Spielberg’s epic motion picture based on the 1982 novel by Michael Morpurgo. Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminsk fill every inch of the screen with the lush rolling hills of rural peacetime and the grotesque largess of the battlefield. Visually stunning, heartfelt, and engrossing, the movie, which comes out on Christmas Day, begs to be seen on the big screen.
On the cusp of World War I, British farm boy Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) meets a spirited new foal, Joey. When his father purchases the horse in a prideful, desperate act, Albert endeavors to train the colt to farm and the two develop a touching friendship. Writers Lee Hall and Richard Curtis are forced to cover a lot of ground when Joey’s sold into servitude to the British Army. Told from the horse’s point of view, we follow as he makes his way through war-torn Europe meeting various British, French, and Germans along the way. Joey responds to their affection with hard work and loyalty, impressing all with his heart. The film doesn’t discriminate about nationality or politics, it’s about the best of humanity and the measure of civilization under war and war’s futile waste.
Battle scenes are toned down from the raw brutality Spielberg shows in movies like Saving Private Ryan, but the director does capture the shocking violence and scope of the invasions. War Horse is the story of good and faithful people and the beautiful horse that brings out the best in them all. The editing (Michael Kahn) is fast-paced, the score (John Williams) is soaring, and all of the performances are affecting. There’s something for everyone in this incredibly lovely film.
REEL FASHION: Costume designer Joanna Johnston has tackled war in Saving Private Ryan and rural farming in Far and Away, she combines those experiences here highlighting the earthiness of country life and the regiment of the military.