Saturday, January 7, 2012

War Horse -- Movie Review

I was lucky enough to see this movie last evening. I am a huge softie for dog and horse movies, so I definitely wanted to War Horse

The movie was much more than I expected.  I had expected a sappy tale about a boy (Albert) and his horse (Joey)--and when the Joey was separated from Albert the subsequent journey for them to be reunited.

What I got was a movie about the hard side of life in England and Europe during the early part of the 20th Century and focused mostly on the WWI time period of 1914-1918.

Life was hard and real. Albert is there from Joey's birth, although his family does not own the horse and they come together on a whim of Albert's father who buys the horse at auction--and really buys the wrong horse for what they need--although in the end, Joey is exactly the right horse for what is asked of him.

The characters in the movie are real--it is easy to hate the hard, business-like, buffoon-seeming landlord and his overly privileged son. Even the weather is used to create the sense of hardship and that nothing can go right for life in the period.

The movie is about relationships centered around the horse--Joey, who by the end of the movie has at least four different names. One of the most touching relationships is between Joey and a rival cavalry horse, a big black stallion, who experiences life with Joey during the war. Through the movie, Joey touches the lives of many different people, and almost all of them are a bit better for their contact.

There are some really hard scenes of war--the trench warfare of WWI France is graphic--although not as gruesome as the movie could have made it, the scenes there are truly memorable and hard. The use and abuse of horses in war during the transition from agrarian based life to our current mechanized lifestyle is evident. It is hard for an animal lover like myself to accept how horses were treated--but one scene stands in my mind as Joey is being marched off to war and Albert is allowed one last good-bye, the battle hardened sergeant cuts the good-bye short by saying something about Joey being a horse, not a dog.

This movie is not for children--and it is a hard movie for adults to enjoy, because the hardest realities of life and war are ever present in the movie. I sat through the movie hoping for a happy ending--which seemed impossible. The struggles, the ever present death and destruction, even the interludes of moderate joy were tempered with the knowledge that these too soon must end--and they did.

I am glad I saw the movie on the big screen of a theater to experience the fullness of the movie. I am sure that it will not be nearly as powerful in a TV. The movie gets long in places--it seems that the trials of the war will never end, but then war is like that.

Recommendation: See this movie, but do not expected to feel good about yourself or the world while in the theater. You may even wonder why you went to see a movie that is so hard and real and that seems to highlight the worst of all of us at every turn. But, like other great war movies that depict war at its worst and hardest--this movie deserves to be seen.


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