PG Cooper: War Horse Review

Posted: January 28, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: December 25th, 2011

Running time: 146 minutes

Written by: Richard Curtis and Lee Hall

Based on: The book of the same name by Michael Morpurgo

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tom Hiddleston

On the morning Oscar nominations came out, a few thoughts ran through my mind. “It be nice to see Drive do well,” “Hope they finally acknowledge Harry Potter,” “Bridesmaids better not get nominated for anything.” As you can tell, I didn’t get very lucky with my pre-Oscar hopes. Among my unfortunate wishes was a strong desire for War Horse to not get nominated. I really didn’t want to see it, but knew if it got nominated, I would. Sure enough, War Horse was nominated, and as expected, I saw the film. So let’s dive into Steven Spielberg’s latest Oscar grab.

The film starts before World War One, and we see the birth of a horse named Joey. Joey is bought by a farmer (Peter Mullan) and the farmer’s son Albert (Jeremy Irvine) immediately takes a liking to Joey. The two form a strong bond, but when World War One breaks out, Albert’s father needs to sell Joey to the army. Albert wants to go with him, but is underage.  Joey then goes on a troubled adventure while changing the lives of many people.

This film is sort of like E.T., but instead of an alien, it’s a horse. And instead of a little boy, it’s an older teenager. And instead of being a relationship that’s charming, it’s really creepy. I got really weird vibes off the relationship between Albert and Joey. Albert loved that horse WAY too much. Now I’m not much of an animal person, and the closest I’ve ever felt to a horse was the one I ride in the videogame “Red Dead Redemption” (who I call George), but even so, the relationship between these two goes too far. First off, Joey is obsessed with this horse, his entire character is defined by how he feels for Joey. The whole time watching, I kept thinking doesn’t this guy have other interests? Like, oh I don’t know, WOMEN! He never shows any interest in the opposite sex, or even human beings for that matter, but he loves rubbing up against this horse.

And you might think I’m some sick weirdo, but believe me, it’s impossible not to watch this film without thinking about it. I don’t really get what’s so special about this horse. Not just Albert, but pretty much everyone who meets this horse is just stricken with him. And I kept wondering why. He’s just a regular horse, and there’s lots of them in the movie. But almost everyone who encounters this horse treats it like a majestic being. Even the way Spielberg shoots the horse is reminiscent of  how someone like Michael Bay shoots women. Every shot is there to objectify them and show how beautiful they are. It gets pretty annoying.

Another problem with the relationship between Joey and Albert is the actor who plays Albert, Jeremy Irvine. Basically all Irvine does is look sad and cry about how much he loves/misses his horse. I’m sorry, I can’t accept that this guy would be so crazy about a horse. And I’m not saying you need to be a child to be into horses, but it’s hard to imagine a young adult being solely fixated on a horse. For example, the reason E.T. works is because it’s a little kid who bonds with an alien, that works. If Elliot was an adult, the movie wouldn’t have worked nearly as well.

So for all my complaints, there are some good things here. For example, there’s some good performances, namely from Tom Hiddleston and Niels Arestrup. The cinematography was really good, and for all the complaints about John Williams trying to hard, I liked the score. I also liked a minor subplot involving two German brothers. The few battle scenes here are also excellent, and there’s one particularly great scene where a German and British soldier have to work together. I always love when they show how similar the enemy is to us.

Spielberg has given us one of the greatest feel good films of all time. A story of an unlikely bond and the trials they go through. A film that while rock you emotionally and leave you stirred. It’s called E.T. With War Horse, even with the good elements, it doesn’t really elevate it too much. If you really love horses, then check this out, you’ll probably dig it. If you’re not, do yourself a favour and just watch E.T. instead.

Rating: C-

  1. htschuyler says:

    They should have made a movie about that goose being enlisted.

  2. Nostra says:

    I felt the same way about this movie. Normally I really don’t mind Spielberg playing with my emotions, but here it felt too much like manipulation. The beginning almost felt like I was watching a new installment of the Babe movies with the pig replaced by a horse. And the animals were told they were playing in a silent movie ;)

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