War Horse Review by Haven Leavitt
For many equestrians, a Steven Spielberg movie about horses promised an exciting tale reflecting the human-equine bond while conveying what war means to those involved. Having heard that War Horse was a tearjerker, I braced myself for what I imagined would be an emotional and enlightening two hours. I left feeling underwhelmed. The movie’s treatment of war, the role of the horse in the war, and the majority of the characters seemed superficial. From an equestrian’s point of view, the thoroughbred, Joey, played a relatively minor role in the film, and the relationship between Albert Narracott and his horse is shallow and one-sided.
In War Horse – gruesomeness of war lacks finesse
It seems that Spielberg has lost all subtlety when it comes to conveying themes. Instead of asking his viewers to come to conclusions on their own, his characters now tell the viewer explicitly what they should be taking away, often multiple times. In War Horse, the scenes depicting the gruesomeness of war were lacking in finesse. Instead of letting the viewer reach the obvious conclusion that the work horses pulling a cannon are going to die of overexertion, Spielberg shows us a horse failing, then pans over a pile of dead horses for good measure. As far as the cinematography goes, the vistas are beautiful, but the film editing diminishes their beauty, rather than enhancing. Hyper-coloration makes the film feel cartoonish, instead of something that imparts real beauty and real suffering.
Characters in War Horse underdeveloped
The characters in War Horse are static and underdeveloped, particularly young Albert – so fresh faced and earnest. Other characters were briefly introduced to give the audience their message, then whisked away, never to be seen again. The thread that was meant to tie them all together, Joey, was never more than a backdrop for the human struggles. The two exceptions were Albert’s mother and father. Ted Narracott was introduced as a heavy drinker with a hard hand, but his character was given depth via Albert’s mother, Rose. The dialogue between Rose and Albert about his father’s experience with war and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was the most sophisticated writing in the film.
War Horse doesn’t feel like a movie about horses
Despite the effort made to dramatize the story of the war horse, War Horse doesn’t feel like a movie about horses. Albert’s training technique was unrealistic and borderline abusive, but the audience is meant to believe that an unbreakable bond between boy and horse has been forged. To me, the most important message that the film could have offered was a critique on the way that war demands unnatural actions and unwavering obedience from both humans and the animals that trust us. Spielberg briefly approaches the idea, but fails to develop it. In the end, War Horse could have been educational and thoughtfully done, but ended up lacking gravity and failing to show respect for the horse.
War Horse – love it or hate it?
Have you seen the movie War Horse? Did you love it or were you disappointed in the movie?
This is a guest post by Haven Leavitt. Haven is a lifelong equestrian. She lives in Gallatin Gateway, Montana and is a Pre-Veterinary student at Montana State University.
Publicity photos courtesy of DreamWorks