Business rating: 3 / 5 stars (Three stars)
Star cast: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Toby Kebbell.
What’s Good: The engaging and entertaining script; the performances; the masterful direction; the cinematography.
What’s Bad: The slightly long running time.
Verdict: War Horse is an entertaining drama that’ll do well at the Indian box-office.
Loo break: None really.
Watch or Not?: Definitely watch it for, it’s an excellent human drama
DreamWorks Pictures and Reliance Entertainment’s War Horse is the story of a boy and his horse, who get separated when World War I begins in Europe, but who meet again before the four-year-long war ends.
Albert (Jeremy Irvine) is a young lad who fancies a young horse in his small village in Britain. When his drunkard but hard-working father buys the same horse in an auction, the responsibility of making the horse – whom Albert christens as Joey – plough their field falls on his shoulders. Albert takes up the challenge and proves the impossible, while his whole village is in attendance. However, when their crop – grown on the land that Albert and Joey ploughed – is washed away due to heavy rains, Albert’s father is forced to sell off Joey to a captain (Tom Hiddleston) in the British army to save his family from going bankrupt. Albert doesn’t want to lose his beloved horse and so he wants to join the army to stay close to it. But he can’t as he is underage. Before they part ways, he promises Joey that he will unite with him some day. World War I begins.
From here on, the horse passes hands from the British army to the German army, then to a French family where he is loved by a young girl. The French army, in dire need of horses to pull artillery, confiscates the horse. Finally, the horse escapes and runs through the battlefield to find itself entangled in barbed wire in the middle of no man’s land.
In a surprising turn of events, a British soldier and a German soldier come out of the trenches and free the horse. In a coin toss, the British soldier wins the horse, which then becomes a source of motivation for the war-weary soldiers. How Albert and Joey meet forms the rest of the drama.
War Horse Review: Script Analysis
Lee Hall and Richard Curtis’ screenplay, adapted from a novel of the same name, is very engaging and interesting, in spite of the rather long running time of the film. To their credit, the writers have woven an inspiring and humane screenplay in the middle of one of the most disastrous wars mankind has ever seen. The film starts at Albert’s crisis-riddled home, where Albert learns of his father’s previous valour as a solider of the British army. And it ends at his home, when Albert returns from the war, victorious and with the beloved Joey.
The sequences where Albert and Emilie, the French girl, are training Joey are eminently enjoyable, especially as the bond between the humans and the animal is well-established. Portions where the brave horse is seen taking the place of peril to save another horse, which it had befriended earlier, are moving. Shots in which the horse is shown running through the war-ravaged battlefield are impactful.
The writers have also managed to create characters that are eminently likeable – Albert, Captain Nichols, Emilie, Emilie’s grandfather – all have the audience’s sympathy throughout the film.
On the minus side, the drama drags a little in the latter half though the climax makes up for it.
War Horse Review: Star Performances
Jeremy Irvine does a fine job as Albert. His bonding with the horse is remarkable. Emily Watson (as Albert’s mother) and Peter Mullan (as his father) are just wonderful. Celine Buckens (as Emilie) is adorable. Niels Arestrup (as Emilie’s grandfather) leaves a mark. David Thewlis wins the audience’s hatred for his good performance as the vain landlord, Lyons. Tom Hiddleston (as Captain Nichols) is fine in a short role. Benedict Cumberbatch (as Major Stewart), Nicolas Bro (as Friedrich), David Kross (as Gunther), Leonard Carow (as Michael), Rainer Bock (as Brandt), Patrick Kennedy (as Lieutenant Waverly), Robert Emms (as David Lyons), Toby Kebbell (as Geordie soldier) and others offer very good support.
War Horse Review: Direction & Special Effects
Steven Spielberg’s direction is masterly. In spite of the huge canvas of the film, he keeps the audience focused on the horse’s journey through Europe and the lives of people it comes across. The director draws out very good performances from his cast and makes sure that several scenes and sequences remain with the audiences even after they have left the theatre. John Williams’ background score makes a huge contribution in creating the appropriate mood for the narrative. Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography is brilliant – the shots of the empty English countryside in the first few reels are fantastically photographed. Rick Carter’s production design is of an excellent standard. Editing, by Michael Kahn, is sharp.
War Horse Review: The Last Word
On the whole, War Horse is an excellent drama that entertains. While Steven Spielberg’s name and the numerous Oscar nominations the film has received will help bring in viewers for the film in Indian cities, the lack of well-known stars might prove to be a slight minus point.