Review: War Horse (2012)

Steven Spielberg is undoubtedly one of the world’s most loved directors and is without question, the king of blockbuster cinema. He thrilled us with dinosaurs in 1993’s blockbuster Jurassic Park, had us in tears with E.T. and had our hearts pumping out of our chests with the Indiana Jones series.

However, here, the ‘king’ relaxes a little and delves into proper old fashioned story telling with the emotional rollercoaster that is War Horse. Teaming up with John Williams once again, the duo delivers a beautiful score to accompany a beautifully shot film.

Jeremy Irvine stars alongside a full roster of celebrities including Harry Potter’s David Thewlis and Thor’s Tom Hiddlestone in what can only be described as one of Spielberg’s greatest films.

The film opens with some awe inspiring shots of the Devon countryside, with Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) staring, masterfully at two horses in a field. Fast forward a few years and his alcoholic father Ted, played wonderfully by Peter Mullen purchases one of them in an auction, hoping to turn it into a plough horse. This horse becomes the focus of the entire film and is nicknamed Joey by Irvine’s character.

After the usual, Spielberg sentimentality, Joey is summoned to help the English army in the First World War. Obviously, this doesn’t go down too well with Albert and he promises that one day, they will find each other. It’s hard to describe just how heart-breaking these scenes are, as Joey is led away by his new trainer (Tom Hiddlestone) and all Albert can do is watch.

After being defeated by the Germans in a deadly ambush, Albert is informed that Hiddlestone’s character, Captain Nicholls has been killed in battle. Assuming the worst, Albert starts to prepare to either reunite with his beloved steed, or discover whether or not he has perished.

Spielberg has created a shockingly beautiful film as Joey loses Captain Nicholls and roams the countryside unmanned trying to escape the clutches of the German army. Unfortunately, on occasion, he runs right into them and becomes an artillery horse, pulling canons and other weapons.

The shots of no-man’s land as the horse time and time again escapes are breath-taking and show the scale of the destruction like nothing I’ve ever seen. Spielberg has a knack for scale and in War Horse, this is exceptionally poignant; shots of a horse graveyard and the grey barren landscape are examples of fine film-making. To say you’ll be in tears is somewhat of an understatement as Joey, terrified from the ordeal he is being taken through loses comrades, crashes through barbed wire and nearly gives up on life.

This coupled with John Williams best score since Jurassic Park ensures that this is a subtle blockbuster to be enjoyed by all.

However, the film isn’t perfect. On occasion, it delves into unnecessary sentimentality and Spielberg must’ve had a book of movie clichés with him at some points during the shoot, like the cheesy sunset ending and the token pulling through in the face of adversity. These are, however, small points in a film which is a spectacle to behold.

The animals no doubt steal the show, but their human counterparts do well in their roles. Jeremy Irvine is fabulous and was an unusual but totally justified choice for the part. David Thewlis shows how versatile he really is as an actor, playing the heartless landlord, ready to ship the Narracott family out of their farm.

War Horse is a film which hits with a huge dose of emotion. John Williams and Steven Spielberg are an unstoppable combination and what the film does best is show off its directors prowess as an artist, not a film-maker. The special effects are sparse because the story doesn’t require them, but when they are there, such as in the battle scenes, they help the story along, instead of hindering it.

It may not quite match the dizzy heights of Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park as Spielberg’s best, but it fits in between excellent Spielberg and spectacular Spielberg. Take some tissues and prepare yourself and you’ll be all set.


Scoring /10





Special Effects/Cinematography




Costume Design






Overall: An emotional ride with Spielberg near the top of his game.

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