The story starts off in 1914 and follows Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) as he develops a formidable bond with a neighbor's young horse. Albert comes to own the horse and the two are inseparable; that is until war breaks out and all animals are required on the battle field. Albert's horse, Joey, is sold to the army and thus begins a test of endurance as fate and circumstance pass him from one owner to the next, from battle to battle, encountering hardship after escalating hardship until at last, in one last ditch effort to escape his hellish circumstance, he entwines himself, physically and metaphorically, in a quagmire of jagged wire between enemy lines.
There are elements of the dark, brooding, majestic landscape scenes of Gone With the Wind, mixed with the extreme low upward tilted, dramatic shots of Citizen Kane. It's clear Spielberg had a lot of fun with this film and allowed his creativity to reach new heights. You can almost taste the delicious detail, utilizing the animals and the set to fill the corners of frame, heightening the intimacy of the action. The camera angles, color combinations, and choreography of shots is superb. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and editor Michael Kahn are at the top of their game with this film.
There are too many great performances to list, not the least of which came from the horses. Spielberg gives the horses personalities of their own; action sequences and emotions that tug at the heart strings and add complexity and depth to the story.
The story is a little sappy in places, but who cares. Spielberg times it perfectly and thankfully avoids some of the more obvious paths he could easily have gone down, to concentrate on the heart of the story.
War Horse is a must see. Watch it on the big screen; you'll want to see it in all its cinematic glory.
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