For an industry so reliant on sex appeal and fast cars, ‘War Horse’ is a pleasant change. For me, anyways.
It might be not a game changer for the whole of Hollywood, or even that of equestrian based plots if you’re the average moviegoer, but you’ve probably seen ‘Seabiscuit’ at least once. Chances are, though, you don’t really remember it and in general, don’t have much of an opinion on these films.
Sad but true, I have to add.
I grew up just south of Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, NY, and naturally, was exposed to horse racing at an early age. And like everyone in my own and the surrounding towns, loved this place from the the first time I visited.
Consequently, maybe even ironically, I worked at this track every summer since I was 18 and fell even more in love with it. That’s another story, but I wanted to point it out to connect my relation to this sport, these animals and my natural taste for any films that portray them. Because here’s the truth: they’re tender, moving and considering the cinematography in them, are just as advanced and brilliant as the summer blockbusters we always look forward to.
‘War Horse,’ too, doesn’t disappoint. Unlike its predecessor films, it strays away from the plot of a horse who wins the big race in the end, as a result of the misfit team who went through incredible feats to train and support it.
Instead, it tells the story of Joey, an animal that is incredibly lucky, and considerably smart, who does overcome obstacles, numerous actually, but all at a heavy price and in a setting that is much more solemn than a gambler’s haven.
Obstacles of war, detachment, and heartbreak surround Joey and the humans who interact with him. It’s a story that’s not shiny because the let’s face it, Europe during World War I was far from it, as director Steven Spielberg highlights. The battle scene, where Joey’s owner, Albert, fights along with the English troops at Tromme steals the show. All because of Albert’s determination to make it across no man’s land and into the enemy’s trench as well as his reaction when he sees that his childhood friend has made it safely across too.
It’s not just a vibrant, spectacular visual, though. In grand scheme (a given with Spielberg), comes his right hand man John Williams, who time and time again accompanies screenplays with scores that are unforgetable. ‘War Horse’ is no exception. Williams’ score carries this film through, evoking the spirit from Joey to survive the war and make it back home to Albert at all the right moments.
And all the right moments, amidst a dark and ever-realistic struggle on a innoncent animal, are blended with humor and optimism, too.