While I enjoyed War Horse, I think it is over hyped. It will likely win Best Picture at the Oscars, but I don’t think it should. It was well worth seeing though.
Lots of major spoilers ahead. I am literally going to go through the movie beginning to end, leaving no spoiler unspoiled. There is a reason I’m doing this, but be warned, continuing to read will be like watching the movie…sort of.
War Horse is the story of a horse sold when still very young to a half drunk man whose foolish pride causes him to outbid his landlord on a horse that wasn’t ready to pull a plow, which was what he needed. When his wife yells at him, their son, Albert, says he’ll train the horse and he names him Joey. He trains the horse than they become the best of friends.
Joey shows that he is more than he seems when he helps Albert plow a stony field, which no one thinks he can do, in order to save their farm. Even with the field plowed and crop planted, when a storm destroys it all, Albert’s father sells Joey to a soldier going off to war. Albert is understandably upset, but the Captain who buys him promises to return him after the war. Joey heads off to war with Albert’s father’s flag from the war tied to his harness.
While training, Joey makes a friend, another horse whose name I don’t recall. In the first battle they are in, the Captain is killed and the German army takes Joey and his horse friend.
Now they are in the care of a young German soldier named Gunter. When Gunter’s younger brother, who is only fourteen years old, is sent to the front, Gunter steals the two horses, picks up his brother, and they desert.
The brothers hide inside a windmill. They are promptly found by the German army and executed, but the horses are not found.
Around this time, Albert receives the Captain’s sketchbook with a note saying that he is dead and wanted Albert to have it. It includes a sketch of Joey.
Joey and his friend are then found by a young sickly girl who lives with her grandfather who makes jam. She hides the horses when the American army (I think they were American) comes through searching for food and whatever else they can take. The first time the girl rides Joey, she runs into the German army who takes both horses.
With me so far?
The German commander (can’t recall his rank) gives the two horses to the private who is in charge of the horses who are literally being worked to death. When another horse dies pulling a cannon up a hill and is shot, the commander calls for Joey’s friend who has a bad leg. Joey valiantly charges up the hill to take his friend’s place, just barely making it to the top of the hill with the cannon.
Meanwhile, Albert and his friend, as well as the son of his father’s landlord, are now on the front lines. His friend is killed and the landlord’s son wounded, but is saved by Albert. Albert is temporarily blinded by gas.
Later, as the army is moving out, Joey’s friend dies, just as the British make a push. Left alone in front of a tank, Joey runs through German lines into no man’s land between the trenches, getting caught in barbed wire and injured.
An American soldier spots him and waves a white flag in order to go help the horse. Initially the Germans fire a warning shot, but then believe he is trying to help. A German soldier joins him and together they cut the wire and free him. Each wants to take the horse. They flip a coin and the American wins him.
He takes Joey, who is pretty badly hurt, to a doctor who says to have him shot. When that is just about to happen, from behind crowds of troops, you hear Albert whistle the way he used to, to call Joey.
They are reunited at last. Then orders come down that all horses not belonging to officers are to be sold at auction. Albert’s friends get money together so he can buy him and the landlord’s son, an officer, says he will say he is his horse so they can get him home.
At the auction, Albert is just about to win him, when who shows up but the girl’s grandfather. He bids way more than Albert has.
Albert tells him about how Joey is his horse, etc, but the grandfather says that his granddaughter died, and the horse is all he has of her. But he relents, and gives Albert his father’s flag and Joey, saying that is what his granddaughter would have wanted.
In the end, Albert comes riding home on Joey and gives his father his back his flag, as we see Joey standing there, silhouetted against the sunset. It’s all very touching.
If only it weren’t boring and monotonously predictable as hell.
Does anyone not realize when he buys the horse that he will have to be sold to pay for the rent on the farm?
Does anyone not realize the captain is going to die?
Does anyone not know the deserting German boys are going to be executed?
Does anyone not know the girl is going to lose the horses?
Does anyone not see coming that Joey’s horse friend is going to die?
Does anyone not see that Joey will be rescued by an American and German soldier working together in such an obvious, “wow, my enemy is human, not the devil,” moment.
Does anyone think that Joey will be shot in the head with Albert in a bed in the next building?
Does anyone think the grandfather won’t give Joey to Albert?
Does anyone think they won’t make it home?
This movie will probably win Best Picture at the Oscars, but it really wasn’t that good. I enjoyed it, sure, but it was just too predictable. The only surprise was the grandfather showing up to buy Joey. Didn’t see that one coming.
There were some good performances from the human actors. Jeremy Irvine was excellent as Albert, among others, but David Thewlis and Tom Hiddleston were horribly under used. (And no matter how good a guy he plays, when I look at Tom Hiddleston, I will always see Loki.)
Still there were some wonderfully shot scenes. When the two German boys are executed, you are seeing it from behind the windmill. The gunshots go off as the blade blocks your view and the boys lay dead. Really well shot (as in shot with a camera). The charge across the open field into the German camp was wonderful, as well, and Albert’s charge across no man’s land during the battle reminded me a lot of Saving Private Ryan without the beach. I wonder why that is? 🙂
All in all, just not deserving of the hype.
Thanks for reading!