Picture war – destruction, death, suffering. Now think of humanity – compassion, hope, love. Surely humanity cannot exist in the inhumane time of war, can it? The film “War Horse” effectively proves that it can. As seen through the innocent eyes of a horse, humanity can exist among friends, animals, and even enemies affected by the horrors of war.
The movie centers on a horse named Joey, who is cared for by young Albert (British actor Jeremy Irvine), in World War I-era England. When Albert’s father sells the horse to the British cavalry, Joey must leave behind the boy who loves him to join a war he had no choice but to enter. Through Joey, viewers experience the lives of Joey’s caretakers, who change frequently due to the tragedy of war, and see the humane side of battle through them.
Amid bullets and cannons, humanity is demonstrated by the British soldier who refuses to shoot British retreaters. It is shown by the British and German soldiers who temporarily cease fighting to free Joey from the barbed wire in no-man’s land. Above all, it is proved by Albert joining the war himself just to find his beloved horse. “War Horse” tells the stories of very different characters all united by a horse and all proving that good people can be found even in the cruelest of times.
Director Steven Spielberg has already captured the brutality of war in films such as “Saving Private Ryan” and mini-series like “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific.” But he has never shown war like this. In “War Horse,” Spielberg focuses less on violence and more on the emotional bonds between characters, not even showing the deaths of main characters on camera. He even conveys emotion through the horse – viewers can sympathize with Joey’s fear, pain, and love as if he was human. The story of “War Horse” has already been told in the original novel and award winning play adaptation, but Spielberg’s film is a touching and meaningful experience all on its own.
To American audiences, the cast is relatively unknown, comprised of British, French, and German actors. However, everyone shines in their roles. One would not even think that “War Horse” is Irvine’s film debut, since his portrayal of Albert is so moving and deserving of an Oscar.
“War Horse” is not about a war or a horse. Rather, it is a heartwarming depiction of humanity during an inhumane time.
Sean Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.