Review: War Horse

War Horse

  • Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Tom Hiddleston (Thor), Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves)
  • Directed by: Steven Spielberg
  • Synopsis: Set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War, War Horse begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. When they are forcefully parted, the film follows the extraordinary journey of the horse as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets—British cavalry, German soldiers, and a French farmer and his granddaughter—before the story reaches its emotional climax in the heart of No Man’s Land.
  • Trailer:

Spielberg’s SECOND directed film of the year (and month) comes to theaters with something in store for all ages and moviegoers alike. War Horse shares the incredible journey of a boy and his horse. To copy a line from Dan over at DanTheManMovieReviews: “…this kid really loves this horse. I mean he reaaaaaaaaaally loves this horse.”

It’s true. Newcomer actor Jeremy Irvine truly portrayed the highly relatable emotion on the big screen in such a great way! He really loves that horse! A highly impressive performance. I was surprised to learn that this film is his first full-length motion picture. Spielberg found a great find in him.

I will tell you, I did not want to like this film going into it. I can only handle so much from a movie about an animal. In order to keep my attention, there needs to be more than just following a non-talking beast for 120 mins or so! (and if not, and if the animals talk, then the movie better be shorter!) While it is touching to see the love of an owner for an animal that apparently seems to understand the English language, it just can’t carry a film of 146 mins. That’s where Spielberg’s touch comes in and gives audiences a bigger story to follow and tie in all of the pieces very well — World War I.

The events of The Great War tie in all of the intermingled stories of all of the people who ended up with the unlikely connection of knowing the horse! The war helped, but also  took away from the increased greatness that this film could have had! Yes, the horse is “amazing” and “miraculous” but I grew tired of hearing it said over and over and over again. We get it Mr. Spielberg! You like the horse! haha.

Also, for as much war that is in this film, I was surprised to see Spielberg present an almost complete “bloodless” war on screen. (Especially after directing Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan). The war, however, is still presented respectfully to the history of the events with the amount of horses that were killed and the introduction of chemical warfare and firepower weaponry.

The one little problem with War Horse is that it is a film (with a series of mini-stories) within a film. A war film encased inside of a lovey-dovey good-feeling film of a boy and his horse. It works for the most part, but also tends to distract. Spielberg keeps the story going by transitioning well through different stories and tying them all together come the end, causing the distractions to be tolerated detours from just focusing on the horse and the boy! Overall, it still works.

One of the biggest themes of the film is how people of varying backgrounds, creeds, etc, can come together in agreement/unison over a single cause. Evidenced all throughout the film, the horse, Joey, proves that again and again. Especially in scenes of war! Spielberg very successfully brings that message to the big screen while using the canvas of “the war that was to end all wars.” 

No. War Horse is not National Velvet, Secretariat, Seabiscuit, or Old Yeller. War Horse brings a multi-faceted story to the big screen that will delight movie lovers of all types. The power of friendship is very much alive and well in this film. Saturated with sappy, sad, sweet, scary, serious, and surprising moments, War Horse is a great film from Steven Spielberg. See it!

(I have to mention that I truly loved the beautiful Golden Globe nominated soundtrack to the film. It’s no surprise to realize it is a John Williams score! Absolutely gorgeous!)

Thanks for reading!

Enjoy if you wish…or don’t enjoy! Happy Watching!

TheSp1der’s Score:  4 out of 5 stars for “War Horse


  1. Excellent review of this one, T. I pretty much agree with you on the film. There is a lot of great Spielberg touches in this production… and some things this filmmaker is known for that didn’t quite work. The last third of the film, I thought, was the film’s strength (though a bloodless battlefield, especially in the trenches of WW I was a bit off-putting). Still, I was surprised to be so moved by the time I heard Albert’s horse call. 4 out of 5 stars is what I’d give it. Thanks.


    • Thank you very much. It seems that we are truly in agreement as some of the things kind of put me off as well, but I couldn’t score it any less. I really liked it.

      It’s was pretty easy to see that when they introduced Albert’s horse call in the beginning that it’d be instrumental. Like you, when I heard it, I was moved…”goosebumps.”


  2. Good review as always, T. I’m glad to hear your positive thoughts on this because quite a few people have been hating on it!

    On the note of the Oscars though, I think War Horse could make a serious run at Best Picture/ Remember Crash, Forrest Gump? All those hate sentimental flicks. I can see this one going with them… haha.


    • thank you Matt! I didn’t want to like the film going in BECAUSE of all the sentimentality! ha, but I ended up rather enjoying it.

      I hope it gets some attention from The Academy, but I have a feeling that, even if nominated, it won’t be out the likes of The Artist, The Descendants, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and Sucker Punch (I’m joking with that last one!) 😀


  3. Without a doubt, this is Spielberg trying his hardest to manipulate the hell out of his audience but it somehow works and brought me into the story despite some of the very corny moments. Great review.


    • thanks Dan! You can always tell Spielberg stuff and, you’re right, it somehow works here! (Wish I could say the same for Tintin…I wanted to like that one. I did. I just couldn’t get into it)


  4. Great review, the fact that it’s ‘bloodless’ actually makes me want to see it more. I can’t handle Saving Private Ryan for the gruesome violence but generally WW-themed films appeals to me, plus it’s got Hiddleston in it 😀


  5. I think you are slightly missing the point in why Spielberg chose to make the war virtually bloodless. I think Spielberg is one of the finest directors out there – if not THE finest – of knowing what his audience will be for a movie and then tailoring it to meet them. He knew “War Horse” wasn’t the kind of movie for die-hard, battle-sequence aficionados. It’s a movie for the family audiences. Obviously not the family that would go see “Chipwrecked,” but a family of decently mature children who can handle a little bit of violence and a long sit in the theater. He wanted to make a war movie for that audience, one that can show the power of communication to cross borders even when set among a backdrop so menacing as a World War. This is a message he wants everyone to be able to hear, and if he made it like “Saving Private Ryan,” the message would be lost amidst the noise and the audience clamoring for war instead of a message.


    • Nice! Marshall, thank you for sharing this perspective! No doubt that Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time! and no doubt that he can do a fantastic job in directing such a film as War Horse. I just would’ve liked a little more of a balance between realism and sentimentalism. while he had a nice message it can also be construed as very slightly misguiding don’t you think? Didn’t need it to be a “Saving Private Ryan”, but I wanted more. It was, however, a great film.

      Thanks for your thoughts, man!


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