WarHorse Review

by AJ

My personal review of the film War Horse, directed by Steven Spielberg.

War Horse - the Film

directed by Steven Spielberg

War Horse is the film, that was based on a stage show that was based on a children's book by British Author Michael Morpurgo.

However, the underlying theme that runs through the story, whether you read the book, watch the play or see the film is the courage of the main characters, horse and human.

Initially set in the rural English County of Devon, the story takes the horse of the title on an epic and dangerous journey through war torn France from 1914 - 1918. Director Steven Spielberg works hard at establishing a huge contrast between the rugged but beautiful countryside of Dartmoor and the flooded, muddy battlefields of the Somme.

The film will undoubtedly come as a shock to younger viewers who may not have realised the uses to which horses were put during World War I and although some scenes were harrowing, they probably won't upset the intended audience too much.

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War Horse

From legendary director Steven Spielberg comes the epic adventure War Horse, a tale of incredible loyalty, hope, and tenacity. Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway play, and...

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From legendary director Steven Spielberg comes the epic adventure War Horse, a tale of incredible loyalty, hope, and tenacity. Based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway play, and...

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What did we think about War Horse?

It's OK - there's no spoilers!

I saw the film with my husband and daughters aged 15 and 13. The eldest is the horse mad one and a very good rider, although the younger one likes horses too.

In the UK, the film has a "12A" certificate, which means that no child under the age of 12 can view the film unaccompanied by an adult and my own feeling was that any child under the age of 8 would probably find some of the film upsetting.

I suspected that the film would probably not be too concerned with accuracy in some of the depiction of  the First World War and I was right. But at least the camera work and the settings gave a feel for what it must have been like, trapped in trenches in the mud and the utter terror as the soldiers had no choice but to  "go over the top".

Spielberg makes us very sympathetic to all the soldiers, not just the British and I really liked that. There were no "goodies" or "baddies", just humans and horses caught in a war that was not really of their making.

And from my research it does seem that many of them, both British and German, developed a love for the horses in their care, as conveyed by the film.

Although some of the scenes did give us a bit of a jolt, I am glad that Spielberg did not feel the need to splatter everything in blood as men and horses were killed in battle.

Sometimes I felt that the orchestral soundtrack, composed by John Williams was a bit to much, but on the whole the music was used well, particularly in shots that left you in no doubt about what the horses were probably feeling.

Anyone who loves horses can't fail to be moved at the sight of these beautiful creatures being used in a War setting. The thought being made all the more distressing when you consider that horses evolved to run away. A point made by one of the characters in the film and a point made to me by my Blacksmith when he was shoeing my own young trembling horse, many years ago.

But the biggest relief is that the horse was NOT given a voice. Clever filming and use of the soundtrack made it completely unnecessary.

The verdict from the whole family is that WarHorse is a film well worth seeing and I would not mind betting that there will be an Oscar nomination or two.

War Horse Trailer

The Bond between Joey, the horse and the boy, Albert

I am guessing that it would be very hard for someone who did not know anything about horses to imagine, let alone understand, the bond that can develop between a horse and its owner. However, through brilliant camera work, Spielberg manages to convey the trust that grows between the young and spirited colt Joey and the boy, Albert, who is determined to train him.

This makes the scene when Joey is sold to a soldier who is heading for the war in France even more poignant.

With his huge blue, pleading eyes Jeremy Irvine, who plays Albert makes it very easy for our heart strings to be tugged and yes, I think my teenaged daughters fancied him like crazy too.

Jeremy Irvine spent a lot of time with the horses, mucking them out and grooming them in order to establish a relationship with them and although stunt riders were used, he did most of his riding as did the other actors, even during the battle scenes.

War Horse - the Book

by Michael Morpurgo
War Horse: (Movie Cover)
$8.99  $2.00

Finder's Key

the Hollywood Horse who plays Joey

The lead role in War Horse is not the first time thoroughbread Finder's Key has been on the screen. He has been dyed black for a role in CSI Miami and also appeared alongside stars like Antonio Banderas and Denzel Washington.

Trained by his owner Bobby Lovgren, Finder's Key is 11 years old and based in the US. He had to be flown to the UK and Europe for the filming of WarHorse.

"Finder" as he is generally known is what is termed a "Liberty Horse". This means that he will work without restraints.

Steven Spielberg talks about War Horse


Filming with Horses

an Interview with Bobby Lovgren

An interview with Bobby Lovgren - source Upcoming Discs

Bobby Lovgren, as well as owning Finder, was the Horse Master and Head Trainer during the filming of War Horse. Born in South Africa, he grew up in an equestrian family and he learned how to train horses for films in Los Angeles. He moved to the US following five years as the Stable Manager at Brentwood Parlk Stables, the largets eventing and jumping stables in South Africa.

Prior to War Horse Lovgren has trained horses for are “The Mask of Zorro”, “Seabiscuit”, “The Legend of Zorro” and “Racing Stripes” for which he was zebra trainer too!

Not only did Lovgren have to train Finder for the part, there were younger horses playing the part of Joey as he grew up and in early scenes in the film, Finder actually played Joey's mother because they needed a horse the foal would follow that would do scenes without restraints.

As is always the case when working with animals, the trainers faced a number of challenges and doubles were used for some of the scenes, that required the horses to behave in a spefic way. This meant that even the horses needed make-up to ensure they had the same markings.

A lot of work had to be done with the horses to get them used to the special effects for the battle scenes, such as the smoke and loud bangs. But if a horse was upset by the noise they would make sure they were filmed some way away.

Horses in World War I

An estmated five million horses were used by all the armies in World War I. One million were serving with the UK and Commonwealth forces. Many were seriously injured and died.

Throughout the First World War, armies were reliant on their horses and mules. They were used to carry supplies and ammunition, pull light artillery, wagons and ambulances, and to perform other important jobs, either on their own or in teams.

The heavier draught horses were used to pull the bigger canons but by the end of the war they had been replaced br tractors and large motor vehicles.

Another Review

by AJ Ashley
Dreamcoats and Petticoats, the high energy, feel good 60s musical - I've seen it and it's fab!
Updated: 02/24/2014, AJ
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Have you seen WarHorse? Are you planning to go and see the film?

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AJ on 01/28/2012

I know you mean. I was sort of dreading the film - crikey, I still cry every time I see Bambi's mother get shot! So I went prepared with tissues. However, I have to say that although there were some sad scenes, they did not upset me too much - Spielberg certainly did not dwell on it. He kept the story moving along.

nightbear on 01/27/2012

I really wanted to see this movie, And I loved your review. thank you. However, hearing that their are scenes that I wouldn't like will keep me away. I just can't watch animals, being harmed in anyway. That really upsets me, so I guess I'll wait for DVD and fast forward capability.

Tony Payne on 01/24/2012

I would love to see the movie, but it looks like we will have to wait for the DVD unfortunately. My cousin saw the stage play and was very impressed. Many of the War Horses were trained close to where we live as well.

happynutritionist on 01/24/2012

We saw this the week after Christmas, a birthday dinner and a movie date with my hubby, and I enjoyed it very much. Movies like this are so rare now, love it and highly recommend it...difficult to watch at times, may be hard for the younger ones, but the ending helps.

inkserotica on 01/24/2012

Chris and I saw the film last week, and we had an idea that we would need tissues! I tend to avoid watching horse films despite my love of horses probably because it brings back too many memories. I did enjoy the film but I don't have a favourite horse film per se. Probably because a film cannot match up to my own experiences with these gorgeous creatures. Great review :)

fanfreluche on 01/23/2012

It is the first time I heard about that film. Strange because Warhorse is a Spielberg movie. Looks promising, I love WWI movies

brlamc on 01/23/2012

Nice article on the movie. I will have to take my girlfriend to see this one.

AJ on 01/23/2012

Thank you Jo. I have tried very hard to give a flavor of the film without giving away too much about the plot. Do both Joey and Albert make it through the war? You have to go see the film :)

As for the Editor's Choice Award - "dead chuffed" I am (slang for "very pleased"!!)

JoHarrington on 01/23/2012

I had never heard of this film until a couple of hours ago. Then my mother (who rarely goes to the cinema) told me that she was going to see it with her friends. They've apparently heard great reviews.

Now I come to Wizzley and find you talking about it too!

This is a great review. I certainly feel like I know what the film is all about now. And congratulations on your Editor's Choice Award!

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