Thursday, December 29, 2011

War Horse...the movie review

famous image by Fortunino Matania (1881-1963) owned by the Blue illustrates the extraordinary bond that existed between soldiers and their horses.

Below is an accompanying poem by poet Henry Chappell (1874-1937) called A Soldier's Kiss:

When the movie was husband and I were the last to leave our seats.  The movie credits rolled for almost 5 minutes naming the hundreds of people who came together in the project of bringing to the screen the tale of War Horse, written by Michael Morpurgo in 1982. 
The play by the same name won a prestigious Tony award.  I have not seen the play as yet, but know it must be an equally powerful statement of the bond between horses and mankind.  

I did read the book beforehand, and did not know how they would be able to tell the tale (as is told by the horse Joey in the book).  Well...they didn't; but the horses were amazingly expressive in showing in their eyes the feelings of trust and obedience that horses can show and give to those who earn that trust.  

What noble creatures horses are, and have been throughout history.  It is about time that people were touched by art depicting what these animals have done so willingly for us.  Steven Spielberg has made a wonderful movie that gave us an emotional ride through the horrific battlefields where so many fought and died, horses and man alike.  

There is a dramatic scene where Joey escapes into "no man's land" ...that hellish place between the two lines of battle.  The fighting stops because both sides can't believe there is a horse running loose in such a terrible place.  I won't spoil it for you, but right the crux of the war thing...where it all boils down to what horses do for the soul of mankind.    

The movie was beautifully filmed and the attention to detail was greatly appreciated.  There was no need for blood and guts to be graphically shown.  There were no animals harmed in the filming, and a few seconds of animation were used in Joey's run through barbed wire.  

There is a happy ending because after all, this is a children's book Mr. Morpurgo wrote.  I just wish that the "war to end all wars" was true.  We seem to forget the terrible cost to everyone and are quick to fight, rather than find other ways to come to common ground with our fellow man.  

I found the movie's sound effects the most horrifying.  I caught sight of my self in a mirror on leaving the movie house and the whole experience was written on my face.  Everyone around us felt the same, men and women alike.  When we got up to leave, there was a man, about the same age as my husband who had waited just to meet eye to eye with my husband and say what a great movie that was.  My husband agreed and choked back sobs for the common emotion that he and the stranger felt.  
Mr. Spielberg was able to create art from all those people and animals in the project and bring together a great visual and emotional experience from Mr. Morpurgo's great homage to the war horses.  Go see it if only for the sake of the noble creature...the horse.

 The Blue Cross organization of the UK has been helping animals since 1897 and cared for sick and injured horses during World War One. They have kindly opened up their historic archives to the public online where you can explore images, memorabilia and stories from the front line…

read about my grandfather's war horse

Blog update: January 24, 2010

War Horse at the Oscars:

Great year for movies....The Artist leads the field of 9 for Best Picture with 11 nominations in the different categories.

War Horse has 6 nominations for:

Best Picture

Art Direction


Music-Original Score

Sound Editing

Sound Mixing

I doubt it will win Best Picture, but am happy a young generation knows of the role horses has played in human history.  I have read comments from some that had no idea, or gave no thought of how horses have served us. 

Joey, authentically tacked, and handler, authentically dressed on the red carpet at premier of War Horse in from the Toronto Gazette


  1. Well written! I saw the movie with my husband on Christmas day, loved it! I cried some too and thought of all the real life horses that lost their lives in wars. I am going to put a link on my blog to direct readers here.

  2. I saw the movie as well and am still churning a review around in my head before it hits my blog. Finding the right words for such a powerful film is not easy to do. You've done a great job.

    I didn't realize this movie was based on a children's book and I am a bookseller with children's books being my specialty. Guess I need to do some checking to see if I can find this. I would love to read it.

  3. thank you for writing this...i haven't seen it yet and am not sure i should as i am a cry baby and very emotional when it comes to animals, especially horses. interesting that the book is written through the horses eyes...seems like i need to read the book first.

  4. If you are a Kindle owner, you can order the book sent to your Kindle for $5.24 through Amazon and begin reading instantly. I loved the book for the story being told by Joey. A bit more character fleshing out in the book easy couple hour read...wonderfully written. Thanks for all the kind words.

  5. I wish I did have a Kindle but for now my books still come in the paper kind but thanks for trying.

  6. I am anxiously awaiting this movie to come out on DVD. We don't usually go out to the movies; aside from the expense DD is deaf, so she needs closed captioning (otherwise I wind up interpreting half of the movie *laugh*).
    I read somewhere that Mr. Spielberg was exceedingly careful to maintain an excellent (and positive) work environment for the horses involved in the movie. Points for him, eh? ;o)

  7. I read that also Jen...being a horse owner himself. I am sure the DVD release will be soon after the Oscars. Sure hope it wins best least...get's a nomination. It got two Golden Globe nominations.

    Dear Anonymous...I love paper as well...there is always the library and Amazon has the paperback used for $3 something...the only reason I have a Kindle is it is a hand-me-down from techo hubby

  8. I was lucky enough to see a sneak preview and both my daughter and I found it to be amazing. It was tear wrenching in certain scenes and definately hard to watch how horses were treated during this war. It ran deeper though, touching on relationship (not just on that between horse and boy) between father and son, and the effect that the war the father had served in had effected him. It was only by serving in war himself did the son come to understand what his father went though. There is so much more to this movie than this article would lead you to believe. I can only advise you see it and then judge it for yourself.

  9. You are so right Joe. War affects everyone. Thanks for visiting...Nancy

  10. What a beautiful poem and such a heartbreaking image. Thank you.

  11. That image is really something, and i look forward to your first post for 2012. Richard

  12. The sound in Spielbergh movies are always such an integral part of his story telling, and never more so than in War Horse. Strange that animals tend to bring out our human side.

    1. No wonder Spielberg got three Oscar nominations in sound: Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Music Original Score by John Williams.