Skip Navigation Links
Catholic News
Special Reports
Google Plus
RSS Feeds
ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

War Horse

John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Jeremy Irvine stars in Steven Spielberg's "War Horse."
"War Horse" (Disney) is director Steven Spielberg's epic screen version of Michael Morpurgo's 1982 novel, the stage adaptation of which has proved a critical and popular success both in London and on Broadway.

Despite Morpurgo's tenure as the U.K.'s official children's laureate, though, Spielberg's vast canvas makes unsuitable viewing for kids—because of the intensity of the onscreen drama, the level of violence in scenes of World War I fighting and some of the vocabulary used in screenwriters Lee Hall and Richard Curtis' script. Mature audience members, on the other hand, will encounter a stirring affirmation of human solidarity amid the tragedy of the trenches.

Ironically, this realization of shared values is brought about by the heroism and endurance of the film's nonhuman protagonist, the titular equine.

We first meet the thoroughbred—who eventually acquires the sobriquet Joey—while he's in the auction pen of a small English town. There he sets off a bidding war between the local squire (David Thewlis) and one of his tenants, farmer Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan). Though he can neither afford nor use the animal, Ted stubbornly outbids his overbearing landlord just to thwart him.

When Ted brings Joey home, his good-hearted but timid wife Rosie (Emily Watson) is appalled; his teenage son Albert (newcomer Jeremy Irvine), by contrast, is delighted. Albert insists that he can transform Joey into a working horse, capable of plowing the fields. Though he eventually does so, with the onset of the Great War, continuing economic pressures prompt Ted to sell Joey to Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston), an army officer bound for the Western Front.

This initiates a series of adventures and trials that are, by turns, touching and harrowing. The horrors to which Joey is subjected will likely make the substantial portion of the movie that follows a difficult slog for animal lovers, while those indifferent to our furry, feathered or hoofed friends will hardly be drawn to this tale in the first place.

But those who imitate Joey by persevering through it all will find themselves rewarded with a positive message based on humanistic values.

The film contains considerable combat and other violence, including an execution; about a half-dozen uses of crass language; and a few vague sexual references. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

Search reviews at

Thank you for your comments. Editors will review all posts before they are visible on the website.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

Stumble Virtue Vice and the Space Between

World AIDS Awareness Day
An e-card from you will brighten someone's day. Let those who are ill know they're not forgotten.

St. Andrew
Legend says that this apostle, patron of Scotland, was crucified on an X-shaped cross.

First Sunday of Advent
Before dinner this evening gather your family to bless the Advent wreath and light one purple candle.

Remember also to give thanks for departed loved ones with whom you’ll someday be reunited.

Thanksgiving Day (U.S.)
Thanks be to God for our families, our homes, our lives. Happy Thanksgiving from Catholic Greetings and

Come find us at: Facebook | St. Anthony Messenger magazine Twitter | American Catholic YouTube | American Catholic

An Site from the Franciscans and Franciscan Media Copyright © 1996 - 2015