When I saw the first trailer for War Horse I did not immediately want to buy a preview ticket at my local cinema. War Horse is based on a Michael Morpurgo book.
When I saw the first trailer for War Horse I did not immediately want to buy a preview ticket at my local cinema. War Horse is based on a Michael Morpurgo book. He’s that novelist who traumatised me as a child with his relentlessly depressing books and for at least three years after reading The Dancing Bear, made me determined to volunteer for a bear charity for the rest of my life. I have never been good with the death or torture of animals and that is Morpurgo’s forté.
So between a Morpurgo adaption, Spielberg’s directing and Williams’ music, I didn’t think my tear ducts would be able to take it. But, after watching the Golden Globe and Oscar nominations come through I decided that I couldn’t miss this film. I owed it to Spielberg after Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, ET, Jaws, Empire of the Sun, The Color Purple and of course, Indiana Jones.
I went to the cinema prepared of course: a handful of tissues and a bottle of water to rehydrate me and in due course I welled up about 30 minutes in. But what I could see through the blur of tears was a magnificent film with influences from across Spielberg’s vast catalogue of film. I saw Saving Private Ryan in the battle sequences (minus the gore; it was a 12A), I felt ET in the relationship between Albert and Joey the horse; I was moved by the waste and destruction of human life like I was in Schindler’s List.
It is most definitely your classic, beautifully filmed, emotional saga (every window had a ray of sunshine coming through) and I have never seen the English countryside and culture look so quaint and appealing (and I come from the Cotswolds). Warhorse does have its fair share of cheese, particularly in the final scene, but when you are so swept along by the characters and the friendships formed, a slap of cheese here and there is welcome, especially when the story involves a hell of a lot of death and suffering. Like in Spielberg’s previous works, we see the best and worst of human behaviour.
I was pleased to see that that English characters were acted by English actors, and German characters were acted by German actors (apart from one Dane who snuck in) but the authenticity was slightly let down by a charming French girl with the worst French accent ‘I lurve ze ‘orses graundpapa’.
Most importantly, the First World War seems to be neglected in film when compared with World War 2, so War Horse struck me as a reminder of how devastating and wasteful the First World War was. The use of 19th century tactics against 20th century weaponry; cavalry vs. machine guns, was tough viewing. But whilst I was viciously reminded of such a horrible war (which my soggy sleeves and blotchy face indicated) I left the cinema uplifted and that was worth the tears.