War Horse (2011)
Dir: Steven Spielberg
One of my oldest childhood friends from school has recently been starring in the West End production of ‘War Horse’, adapted as this film also was, from the 1982 children’s book by Michael Morpurgo.
It really follows the life of a horse, named Joey by the teenage boy Albert who trains him when his father foolhardily buys him at an auction, bidding against his landlord in front of the most charismatic auctioneer I think I have ever seen on screen. Thoroughbred Joey is put to work on the family farm despite it being the wrong kind of work for a horse of his breeding, and eventually ends up sold to the army at the outbreak of the first world war, and we follow as Joey has an eventful life on the continent without his beloved master.
This is another instance of Spielberg showing off his skill of making a story work with a non-human lead, such as he has done in the past with films like ‘E.T.’ and ‘Jaws’. It also shows him doing war again, nowhere near as brutal as something like ‘Saving Private Ryan’, but still realised with great detail within the war scenes. What I liked especially was the featuring elements of the war such as the cavalry charges and horses pulling the guns, these bits that are lesser seen in war films where the focus is usually on the trenches (that are also seen).
It surprised me that this wasn’t more upsetting as animal-led films often are. Though Joey the horse does have some very difficult times, and sustains some injury, none of it is too unpleasant to watch for someone who cares about animals, Spielberg tactfully holds back just enough for it to avoid crossing the line into off-putting.