Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review: War Horse (2011)

(This is the nineth of my reviews for the Period Drama Challenge.)

War Horse. What can I say? I didn't want to watch it when it first came out. I know how animal stories usually end. As a child, I loved Homeward Bound, and despite Mom's warnings that Old Yeller was sad, I wanted to watch it too. I was traumatized. I do not like unhappy endings, or movies that are depressing. This movie does have its downer moments, but thank goodness it's not a true story! (Then it would HAVE to be sad, right?)

The World War I part is true, but beyond that this is nearly a fairytale, disguised in mud and grime, in the form of a horse and his young master. Through nearly impossible obstacles, after being torn apart in a very heart-wrenching manner, will they find each other again... and live happily ever after?

Jeremy Irvine plays the young farm boy, Albert Narracott. Albert gets to train the colt that's he's admired since its birth when his father, Ted (Peter Mullan) buys the beautiful thoroughbred instead of a plough horse. Ted's wife, Rose (Emily Watson) is very displeased - spending money he can't afford on a horse he shouldn't buy and bidding against his landlord? Certainly not the brightest of ideas. But Albert is delighted to call the spirited young stallion his own, and he names him Joey.

Albert's parents, Ted and Rose
Albert and Joey's first obstacle is a rocky field. Remember the plough horse? Well, that's what Joey must be now. They must plough the field and sell the harvest to be able to afford the rent, so Albert puts a harness on Joey, and after a pitiful beginning, with the whole town watching, the rain helps them get it going, and they plough the whole field in one night through the rain. 

Unfortunately, their beautiful turnips are destroyed in a major rainstorm right about the time war breaks out. Ted takes Joey to town and sells him to a Captain without Albert's knowledge. When Albert discovers Joey's missing, he runs to town. Joey's new owner, Captain Nicholls (played by the awesome Tom Hiddleston!) is kind, but firmly resists Albert's pleas to let him keep Joey. Joey will be a war horse. Albert gets a few seconds to say goodbye, and then Joey's gone.

Major Jamie Stewart (played by another great actor, Benedict Cumberbatch!) is the Captain's superior. They both have fine horses, but in a training exercise, Joey beats the Major's bigger black horse, Topthorn. Joey and Topthorn become friends. 

Captain Nicholls and Major Stewart admiring their horses.
It's great to see Hiddleston and Cumberbatch in this movie, but you can't watch it for them. They die almost immediately in a surprise attack on a German camp. Both of their horses survive, however, and are taken by the Germans. Joey continues to change hands during the war, with his black buddy all the way. 

Albert, watching Joey as a colt, before his dad buys him.
Jeremy Irvine was good in this role, and I can't wait to see him in Great Expectations as Pip! He was very sweet and boyish in this role, but in searching for pictures of him, I found this shot too. With his hair swept off his forehead in this manner he looks like he could play a suave sort of "bad" guy pretty well. Interesting.

In other fun tidbits, Albert's best buddy Andrew is played by Matt Milne, Downton Abbey's "Alfred." (Wow, lots of 'a's!) 

Joey was played by 14 different horses during the film. He is the star, of course, and he was a very intelligent horse with some very human-like moments.

An intelligent look.
I'm always tempted to do a full synopsis and give away every single plot detail, so I will force myself to cease now, and leave you wondering how the story resolves. Just know from a lover-of-happy-endings and with a tender spot for animals that this movie has a satisfactory ending, and is certainly worth watching at least once!

The music was composed by John Williams, and was, of course, quite wonderful. The scenery is also gorgeous. The only scenery I really don't enjoy is at the end, unfortunately, which leaves me a little disappointed. The lighting looks strange and unnatural, probably because it was filmed in the middle of the afternoon, and edited to look like sunset. 

Ditsworthy Warren House on Dartmoor became the Narracott's farm.

The farm gate.
 Castle Combe was used as the village.

Overall, a beautiful, enjoyable movie!


1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I tried watching this once, and got to the part where TH and BC die and couldn't watch farther. But since you say it has some sort of happy ending, I'll give it another go sometime.