The two-hour-and-a-half epic tale about the adventures of wartime horse Joey, a stunningly beautiful thoroughbred, has cinematic style reminiscent of Gone with the Wind. Watching War Horse feels like watching a movie on Turner Classics channel—the sweeping and dramatic landscapes, lush rolling hills, silhouettes against sunsets, storybook cottages and windmills, soaring musical score, and Joey’s teenage owner Albert (Jeremy Irvine) having the classic good looks.
From the time he was a pony, Joey exudes animal magnetism, no pun intended. Aside from his picture-perfect horse physique, there is something extraordinary and almost magical about the horse. Ultimately separated from Albert who raised him, and passed on from one owner to another in the midst of World War I, Joey shows remarkable traits and almost human empathy. And in the end, the great weeper and animal-lover that I am, my throat inevitably constricted and tears trickled down my cheeks.
But that’s me. I easily cry. Objectively speaking, there’s nothing extraordinary or lingering about the linear story. In fact, War Horse is dragging and boring, the story lackluster and requires intense concentration to finish it right until the predictable albeit touching ending. The war scenes grab the attention, though; the superb camera angles, the war sounds, and falling soldiers feel real-- the only gripping scenes in the movie, bringing life into the monotonous flow of the story.
Joey was not even given major presence in the movie; rather, the movie’s substance focus on the lives of each passing owner; the horse’s effect on them, the joy that Joey brings into their lives even for only a brief period of time, and of course, their emotional attachment to the remarkable beast. Joey, with eyes so alive and so human, rarely displays awesome characteristics; he is simply strong, determined, and compassionate.
If you are a fan of the classics, and a lover of horses, you might appreciate War Horse. Its distinct, slightly charming old-fashioned style, as well as the seriously meticulous production, may have earned its right to be Oscar nominated. However, it definitely won’t take home the Oscar gold.
2 out of 5 stars