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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

War Horse

By
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.





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Augustine of Canterbury: In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless. 
<p>Augustine again set out. This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester. </p><p>Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors </p><p>Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”</p> American Catholic Blog A hero isn’t someone born with unconquerable strength and selflessness. Heroes are not formed in a cataclysmic instant. Heroism is developed over time, one decision after another, moment by moment, formed by a deliberate, chosen, and habitual response to life.

Keeping Mary Close by Mike Aquilina

 
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