War Horse

War Horse

Another great horse tale

English (U/A)Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Niels Arestrup,Benedict Cumberbatch,othersDirector: Steven Spielberg

Adapted from a children’s novel, War Horse recounts the bond between Albert (Irvine) and a horse named Joey, the ups and downs they go through as they are separated by circumstances, and their reunion at the end of war.

The plot is not different from those seen in films depicting human-animal relationships, such as Babe, Hidalgo and White Fang. All the classic elements, such as an out-of-luck person, surviving against all odds and emerging triumphant exist in War Horse.

Albert’s father, Ted (Mullan) is an ex-sergeant who, having fallen on hard times, takes to the bottle, and ends up buying a colt, thinking it is suitable for ploughing. Ted faces the threat of eviction if he cannot pay rent for the farm, so he attempts to grow turnips on a rocky field, which works, thanks to Albert training Joey.

Times are tough, and Joey is sold to a cavalry officer, Captain Nicholls. Throughout the film, Joey is fortunate to meet people that understand horses, Joey’s brief relationship with Nicholls, before his death, his brief stay with two German brothers who are executed as they defect from the army and finally finding comfort with a French girl and her grandfather (Arestrup), before being abducted by German soldiers to be used for pulling heavy artillery, an ordeal which Joey remarkably survives.

Joey escapes to the zone as the war is in progress and is stranded, entwined in barbed wire and finally rescued with help from an English soldier and a German soldier, who share pliers, one of the film’s best moments. What follows is how Joey ends up uniting with Albert. Spielberg is a master in directing war films (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List), and as this film is meant for all ages, the horror of war is minimised.

The only blood you ever see in the film is the bruised knee of Joey’s best horse friend, Topthorn. The film has no special effects and even the concluding English sunset scene is natural.

While Spielberg ensures we stay saddled to our seats till the very end, sadly the film trots in the middle, and we are not shown how Albert and his parents are faring as Joey is in France. With fine acting from Irvine, Arestrup and others, War Horse succeeds in opening the tear ducts. Those looking for a great score from John Williams (Superman, Harry Potter) will be disappointed.