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A movie directed by Steven Spielberg

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Three hours about a horse

  • Dec 29, 2011


Written by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Starring Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Tom Hiddleston and fourteen different horses as “Joey”


The other day, I told a friend of mine that I had never in my life ever ridden a horse. She gasped in horror as if I had missed out on one of life’s most rewarding experiences. I’m not against the idea of it, although I can’t imagine horses enjoy that kind of weight on them for hours at a time. I have just never had the occasion and therefore, I have never had the chance to connect to one of these majestic creatures, like so many others. From what I understand, the bond between a person and a horse can be quite something but having no first hand experience with it, I have no idea why. And so, my lack of horse experience or appreciation may have unduly influenced my reading of Steven Spielberg’s WAR HORSE. Or maybe, it just wasn’t that great.


Based on both the original 1982 children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo and the 2007 stage play by Nick Stafford, WAR HORSE is the story of one remarkable journey, had by a horse. The horse, named Joey in the film, starts out born on a farm, and we are naturally present for that birth, and then, after being separated from his mother, is sold at auction in a pissing contest between a landlord and lis lessee. There, Joey must overcome his exquisiteness to become a work horse or the farmer will lose his land. Past that, he goes off to fight in the first World War and the film follows as he changes hands during his four years away from home. Some of the characters Joey meets along the way make for some tender and beautiful moments but given that the story is his, the perspective gets away from him all too often. A horse’s point of view is a little awkward but Spielberg should have reigned himself back in and focused more.


This horse movie is nearly three hours long and it is never clear what kind of movie we are actually watching. Spielberg is known for two types of filmmaking - family style blockbusters that are entertaining for all and graphic war films. WAR HORSE tries to be both of these films, which makes the experience a confusing one at times. The first hour, or at least it felt that way, is about Joey bonding with his young owner, Albert Narracott (relative unknown, Jeremy Irvine) and seeing if he truly can plow the field. The tone is light, the story tired and the shots somewhat plain considering the man behind the camera. Once he goes off to war, the tone changes drastically and the stylized violence Spielberg thrives on takes over, erasing all traces of family entertainment. Predictability follows and we wait for the horse to find his way home. We wait almost three hours ... for a horse.

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January 05, 2012
I liked both the review and the pictures too.
December 30, 2011
I'll wait for the rental, great review.
December 30, 2011
I skimmed through your review just in case I get to see it and review it. Not sure if I'll see this in theaters now, since some Indies have popped up in my area. I do want to see "Shame" so bad....
More War Horse (2011 film) reviews
review by . September 28, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
A long faced look at war
More recently as Steven Spielberg has become a more active producer, his directing credits are becoming less common.      In 2011 he produced the brillant Super 8, one of my favorites, directed by JJ Abrams, the creator, writer and occasional director of Lost, and the recent Star trek. Super 8 is a great nostalgia piece evoking the early eighties, a movie within a movie, and an homage to Spielberg's earliest movies. Spielberg also produced Cowboys and Aliens, a somewhat weird …
review by . June 24, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
** out of ****    Allow me, for a moment, to establish a few of my reviewer biases that I might not have already established in the past. What I like in a movie is entertainment, however it may be delivered; be it through a thought-provoking story, strong central characters, or a satisfying visual style. What I dislike is familiarity, simplicity (although sometimes I can let it slide), and ignorance. And now it all boils down to what a truly hate: forced sentimentality, the manipulation …
review by . July 18, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Were it not for war, many a man's needs would be unfulfilled.
War Horse - directed by Steven Spielberg   Starring - Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson and Tom Eddleson   Based on the 1982 novel by Michael Morpurgo      This WWI drama tells the story of a young man in the English countryside - Albert and a remarkable horse.      Albert was a boy when he witnessed the horse's birth and its early years of growth. Then the horse went on the market and, to Albert's amazement, his father-a farmer barely …
review by . December 27, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         War Horse must have been a tremendous challenge for director Steven Spielberg, as the film is a balancing act between two of his well-established styles, namely overt sentimentalism and horrific depictions of war. On paper, this sounds like a recipe for disaster. On screen, it comes across beautifully. Don’t ask me how he made it work, because I have absolutely no idea. All I know is, like Spielberg’s own E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, …
review by . December 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
While talking to my friend about War Horse, he told me that he initially thought there was some deeper meaning to the title; it wasn’t until later that he found out that the movie is literally about a horse in a war. Any kind of serious discussion about the movie from that point on was impossible. This makes the review all that more difficult to write because Steven Spielberg takes his story very seriously. You know the one about a horse, in a war.      Steven Spielberg …
review by . January 19, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
In Dartmoor, England a teenage boy named Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine), watches in fascination as a thoroughbred colt is born. The baby horse is a beautiful animal and watching the equine run through the fields soon becomes Albert's new hobby. The day comes when the horse is taken to auction. Albert's father, Ted (Peter Mullan) comes to market to buy a plow horse, but when he sees the magnificent beast and spots his landlord smirking on the other side of the fence he ends up paying a …
review by . December 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'War Horse' 'Two Jews On Film' Have Dry Eyes Watching Spielberg's Latest Epic (Video)
         By Joan Alperin Schwartz      Albert (Jeremy Irvine) a young boy, who lives on a rented farm in Devon with his mom (Emily Watson) and his dad (Peter Mullen).  Albert has a horse named Joey and Joey...is one awesome horse and the family couldn't be happier.  Until...          WW! breaks out, and poor Joey is sold to the British cavalry and shipped off to France.  Luckily this reallynice Britis …
About the reviewer
Joseph Belanger ()
Ranked #24
Hello Lunchers. I am a thirty-something guy making his way in Toronto. I am a banker by day and a film critic the rest of the time. Sensitive, sharp and sarcastic are just a few words that start with … more
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A WW1 Action Film Based On The Award Winning Play
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