Monday, January 2, 2012

War Horse

If your holiday plans did not include this flick, make it a New Year’s resolution. When I heard that War Horse was inspired by a London play where they used life-size puppets to play the horses, I was skeptical. As a life-long horse owner and wannabe cowboy, I often cringe when actors with little or no riding experience clumsily climb aboard an unsuspecting horse. Not to worry.
Spielberg and his DreamWorks brought in master trainer Bobby Lovgren from South Africa to get horses to do things on a scale that even he had never attempted. Lovgren is the final protégé of the legendary Glenn Randall, Sr., who trained Roy Rogers’ horses (yes, there was more than one). Lovgren flew from California with his favorite horse Finder (Finders Key) purchased on the set of Seabiscuit. Young actor Jeremy Irvine (Albert in the film) also got riding tips, but the star of this movie is the horse Albert names Joey. And Finder a.k.a. Joey requires no rider to thrill a movie audience. That’s a good thing, because Jeremy could still use a few more lessons.  
Yes, for you nitpicking horse enthusiasts, they did use a dozen horses to play Joey although Finder did most of the really tricky stuff; yes, you may notice the difference if you let such details worry you; yes, the bounds of credulity are occasionally stretched; and yes, heartstrings will be tugged. But don’t get the idea that this is Fury or National Velvet.

This is an epic drama that starts in the period just before the First World War (some call it the trench war) and takes us through a violent period that shakes the world to its core. Screenwriters Lee Hall and Richard Curtis let us see the great human and animal toll that this war exacted through the experiences of Joey and his equine companions. They get away with showing it from both sides because the horses are simply victims; they have no stake in war other than survival.

The story believably endows the horse heroes with the best of human traits. And these great horses somehow do a better job of portraying the anguish and bloodshed than humans ever could. And if you doubt that horses can form a bond with each other like the one portrayed in this movie, I can tell you from experience that you are wrong.
If you are into special effects (and I am not), you probably won’t be disappointed, because the horses in this film are better than special effects. There may be some trickery afoot in the scenes with Joey and the tank, and in the barbed wire area between battlefield trenches called No Man’s Land, but by this time, you will not care.

This movie puts you on the battlefield and in the hills of the European Continent with surround sound, a great musical score and amazing cinematography. And we haven’t even mentioned the great character actors and minor players including Albert’s parents, a young French girl and her grandfather.
I even forgot that Lovgren’s last film was Cowboys and Aliens. Now that—that’s a bridge too far.

1 comment:

Charlotte Hilliard said...

My comment didn't post. I know I would love the movie but probably won't. Can't stand to see animals hurt even make believe.

Thanks for the story about the story though.