Tuesday, January 3, 2012


DIRECTED BY: Steven Spielberg

Writing credits
Lee Hall Screen Play
Richard Curtis Screen Play
Michael Morpurgo Novel

Jeremy Irvine ... Albert Narracott
Peter Mullan ... Ted Narracott
Emily Watson ... Rose Narracott
Niels Arestrup ... Grandfather
David Thewlis ... Lyons
Tom Hiddleston ... Captain Nicholls
Benedict Cumberbatch ... Maj. Jamie Stewart
Celine Buckens ... Emilie
Toby Kebbell ... Geordie Soldier
Patrick Kennedy ... Lt. Charlier Waverly
Leonhard Carow ... Michael (as Leonard Carow)
David Kross ... Gunther
Matt Milne ... Andrew Easton
Robert Emms ... David Lyons
Eddie Marsan ... Sgt. Fry
Nicolas Bro ... Friedrich
Rainer Bock ... Brandt
Hinnerk Schönemann ... German Soldier in No Man's Land
Gary Lydon ... Si Easton
Geoff Bell ... Sgt. Sam Perkins
Liam Cunningham ... Army Doctor

The story begins with the birth of a colt and the animal's first steps. From the beginning, you can tell this is going to be one extraordinary horse. Albert Narracott witnesses the birth and you can tell there's a bond between young man and colt already.

Then, we move to the farm auction. Ted Narracott's there to buy a plough horse. He's got a beautiful Shire to pick from, but there's the colt. Narracott literally bets the farm when he offers thirty pounds for the horse. That's his rent and his landlord, who he is betting against, well knows it. But he's certain the horse will take to the plow.

If it weren't for his son, Albert, that wouldn't be so. Albert trains the colt to take a plow and against all odds, they plow a bit of stony ground and get turnips planted. All would be well except for two things: war erupts and rain destroys the crop.

English calvarymen are in town looking for mounts and unbeknowst to young Albert, Ted Narracott sells the colt to a young captain. Albert shows up just in time to say goodby and the officer tells him the money is only a lease--he'll return the horse to Albert after the war is over.

Then Albert receives the letter. The Captain's dead and the horse is missing, presumed dead. Despite being too young, he enlists and sets out to find the horse.

War Horse in no way depicts the glory of the fight. World War I was hideous and bloody. Men fought in trenches where they died often as not from the poor conditions as the battles itself. And the situation was no better for the horse, who'd been conscripted into the German army. This is not the clean and honorable battles fought in the war films of my childhood, this is real war: loud, ugly, and senseless.

SPOILER: For those of you who were traumatized by Black Beauty, the War Horse does not die in the film; however, plenty of other horses DO die and if Black Beauty broke your heart, this film will rend it into pieces. It's an extraordinary film and one of the two best I've seen this year--Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was the other, but do not watch it if painful images disturb you. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, I will probably not purchase this DVD because I doubt I have it within myself to see it again.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, January 2012

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