War Horse

December 31st, 2011

War Horse, which opened on Christmas Day, is a lovely film about the ugliness of war.

Joey, the title character, serves as a foil and unwitting compatriot for both British and the German forces during World War I. In spite of a sentimental plot, which should come as no surprise since it was directed by Steven Spielberg, War Horse illuminates the irony of subjugation and the beauty of unfettered spirit.

The scene where an English soldier and a German artilleryman wave a white flag and venture into “No Man’s Land” to free Joey from a tangled girdle of barbed wire is especially poignant. The two men talk soothingly to the gelding while they consider how to cut the strands of wire so that Joey will not become frightened and struggle against them.

Another powerful moment comes when the camera catches and holds Joey as he gazes into the sunset with the “look of eagles” that every horseman treasures.

A breath-taking scene early in the movie comes as an English cavalry unit, sabers extended, charges from a field of tall, golden, feathery brush into the face of heavy artillery. It is the leap from centuries old warfare into a new era where horses become as obsolete as bucolic villages where families make a living on small farms.

There is something for everyone in War Horse, and if you love horses, it is a movie not to be missed.

If you are interested in learning more about the role of horses in World War I click here.