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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

War Horse

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

It is just before the start of World War I in 1914 where in a village in Devon in the English countryside a tenant farmer, Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan), buys a beautiful young horse, Joey, at an auction. He spends money he doesn’t have on the wrong horse because, as his wife, Rose (Emily Watson), tells him, he needed a plow horse. But their son, Albert (Jeremy Irvine), is delighted because he befriended the horse  from the time he was born.

Joey proves he can the work of any horse and plows the rocky field. But the rains come and the crop is lost. Indeed, all looks lost when England declares war on Germany. The army comes recruiting men and buying horses. The soldier who buys Joey promises Albert to bring him home if he can.

Joey and a black steed named Topthorn pair up; they are lost and found by a grandfather and his granddaughter, but ultimately the Germans capture the horses and treat them badly, though a horse wrangler and young foot soldiers try to shield them.
 
At the film’s climax, Joey escapes and runs the gauntlet of no-man’s land, enduring gunfire, bombs, gas, and barbed wire. It is a harrowing, heartbreaking scene that sums up the torture of war of the innocent, symbolized by an animal exhibiting the kind of courage we would all want to have to save those we love.
 
“War Horse” is based on the 1982 children’s novel by British author Walter Morpurgo and was made into a successful stage play in 2007.
 
There are many good things to say about “War Horse”.  In most films featuring animals we learn how we can become more human, more humane, and “War Horse” does this beautifully. Friendship, love, sacrifice are themes that bind the film together.
 
However, the film runs long for a family film. The only interesting characters are the mother, Rose, and the French grandfather (Niels Arstrup) and Emilie (Celine Buckens), the granddaughter. All the others lack depth. Truly, the horses steal the show and our hearts.
 
Many are raving about the cinematography but I think the digital process has over saturated the colors making the film look less real and more like a Pixar production. Some of the way the scenes are framed are stolen right out of classic movies of the past; “Gone with the Wind” and “The Searchers” came to mind.

 “War Horse” is a film about war and the idiocy of the endeavor as led by generals. But the troops will sacrifice everything for their friends, and when it comes to saving stalwart animals, even enemies can come together for the common good – and they do.


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