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FTN Reviews War Horse

January 14th, 2012 by Marc Comments

War Horse (12)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson and David Thewlis
Running time: 146mins

Young Albert enlists to service in WWI after his beloved horse, Joey, is sold to the cavalry. Albert’s hopeful journey takes him out of England and across Europe as the war rages on.

In Devon, England, a drunken ex-Boer war veteran purchases a magnificent young colt with a view to making it a work horse on his farm. Against his better judgment, he purchases the horse at a ridiculous price and as a result his young teenage son Albert (Jeremy Irvine) forms a strong bond with the horse, who he names Joey.

It is up to Albert to train Joey in the ways of becoming a work horse. His success is short-lived though due to the outbreak of  The Great War and sadly Albert loses Joey to British Calvary Officer Maj. Jamie Stewart (Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch) who notices that the fine animal has speed and strength and would fulfil the duties required for him during the war in France.

Albert bids a tearful farewell; hoping that he will see the horseagain, he enlists in the army. In these unsettling times, what lies in store for two friends will be an unforgettable journey that will test their friendship to the limit and may even claim their lives…

War Horse is based on the children’s book by Michael Morpugo and the very successful play of the same name. Director Steven Spielberg has created a visually stunning film that captures the very essence of life in 1914. From the picturesque farmlands and countryside of Devon to the trenches of Somme in France. Indeed the cinematography in the battle scenes is quite reminiscent of his past glory in Saving Private Ryan.

The cast is also superb. Jeremy Irvine provides the audience with an extremely believable teenager who witnesses the carnage of the war first-hand whilst at the same time hoping he will be reunited with Joey. Throughout the film there are many notable performances; Benedict Cumberbatch admirably displays the pompousness of a British Officer at that time, Niels Arestrup is superb as the doting Grandfather. However, most believable is Liam Cunningham’s portrayal of the British Army Doctor towards the end of the film, though whilst only in a couple of scenes, his portrayal is one of the highlights.

Acting aside however, this film does fail sadly, In creating a family film, Spielberg has sadly increased the tension and emotion to a level that becomes more annoying as the film continues. There are numerous scenes throughout that although visually stunning, quite frankly beg belief and at times it feels that they have been inserted for no other reason than to cause the audience more emotional turmoil.

The film is set during one of the bloodiest battles of the first world war, and yet there is no blood shown whatsoever! What is shown, is the carnage that has been caused by war and whilst it’s visually superb for achieving the look of the battle, War Horse sadly lets the viewer down in achieving the realism.

This is most likely as Spielberg wanted to create a family orientated film, however I am sure there is a limit to how much emotion a child can take during the course of one film! That aside, War Horse, for all its heavily laden visuals of pain and suffering of a friendship, is a good film and is great for family viewing – if they can weather the emotions.

CAUTION: This film has been classified as “12.” There are a number of scenes that may cause the viewer distress, particularly if they are animal lovers or children.


4 out of 5 Nerds

Phil Wilce


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Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….