War Horse (2011)

war horse poster 2011 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting : 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking, good cast

Story goes almost exactly like you'd expect it to, typical Spielberg

Movie Info

Movie Name:  War Horse

Studio:  DreamWorks

Genre(s):  Drama/War

Release Date(s):  December 4, 2011 (Premiere)/December 25, 2011 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

war horse jeremy irvine joey albert

A boy and his horse

From watching his birth, Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) feels a connection to the Thoroughbred known as Joey.  When his father (Peter Mullan) buys Joey out of pride, Albert breaks and trains the horse against surprising odds, but the arrival of war forces his father to sell Joey to the cavalry.  Now, Joey finds himself in Europe passing from one owner to the next during the war while Albert dreams of being reunited with his horse as he faces the horrors of war himself.

Directed by Steven Spielberg, War Horse is a World War I drama.  The film adapts the 1982 Michael Morpurgo novel and was released to critical acclaim.  Following Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin (also released in 2011), the film received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Art Direction.

war horse benedict cumberbatch tom hiddleston

I’m sure this will end up well for me…

War Horse is one of those films not at all in my wheelhouse.  It is an animal movie, a war movie, and a Steven Spielberg movie.  While I liked Steven Spielberg growing up, it feels like many of his films are just rehash of other movies he’s done and like eating Wheaties…it’s filling but not rewarding.  War Horse definitely fits in that category, but it does have some high points.

I thought going into the picture that it would be a movie about a boy and his horse facing the horrors of war.  Instead, the movie largely has the two separated and trying to “get back” to each other.  The movie plays like a fairy tale with grandiose moments and dramatic cliffhangers:  “Will the horse die?”, “Will the boy die?”, etc.  Unfortunately, it all unfolds almost exactly as you expect it to.

war horse trenches world war i

Run, Joey! Run!!!

The cast is good.  Jeremy Irvine is likable as the horse’s owner though he does seem old enough to distinguish the good of his family from his love of the horse.  Both Peter Mullan and Emily Watson play Irvine’s struggling parents while David Thewlis has a small part as the smarmy wealthy town member who threatens to separate the horse and his boy.  Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch have small roles as the men first tasked with taking Joey and Niels Arestrup has a nice role as the grandfather trying to protect his daughter during the conflict.

While the actors are the proper stars, the real “star” is the horse (or horses).  The training of the horse is solid and the blending of visuals present the horse as real at all times.  Scenes like the horse tangled in barb wire are tough to watch (though you know no animal was hurt), but it also mixes real and animatronic horses seamlessly.  This combines with some great scenery and location shooting especially in the beginning of the film.

war horse ending jeremy irvine emily watson

…and a rosy ending…literally

War Horse is one of those movies you can watch, and while you’re watching it, you won’t hate it nor will you hate it later…but it probably won’t jump out as much as a movie you love or cherish.  It feels like a typical, predictable story told in a great looking package which it really is.  It is the type of movie you know will not end too dark (a PG-13 rating helps that), but it also goes strangely dark in places you did not expect it to.  Spielberg followed War Horse with Lincoln in 2012.

Related Links:

The 84th Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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