War Horse (2011)

world war 1 movieIf, like some of us, you’re expecting a Planet-of-the-Apes-type movie where all the horses finally rise up and saddle the human race, you’re going to be disappointed.


I beg your pardon in advance for all the completely unnecessary pony puns that will surely ensue. Can’t help it. I’m a slave to them. They rain upon me, quietly cascading down into my soul like the dew drops distilled from the eyelashes of the man from Snowy River.

Alright, let’s spur this along. (Don’t worry, the rest aren’t that…lame.)

War Horse is a children’s book written by Michael Morpurgo and adapted to the big screen by DreamWorks and Touchstone Pictures, who had to pony up a few buckaroos to make it. (That’s what I herd, anyway.)

Thankfully it was a box office smash, quieting all the neigh-sayers and earning six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. (That’s a nice way of saying they didn’t actually win anything, but hay, who am I to stirrup bad feelings?)

Directed by that ol’ broncobuster, Steven Spielberg, and his trusty music wrangler John Williams, this movie just goes to show that no matter how long you’ve been in the biz, you’re never really pasture prime.

War Horse stars Jeremy Irvine (Great Expectations), Emily Watson (The Book Thief), and a few other surprise stallions including Benedict Cumberbatch (Amazing Grace), David Thewlis (Harry Potter), and Tom Hiddleston (Thor). Also, the horse with the mane, er, main role in this film also portrayed Seabiscuit in a movie called…(you’ll never guess it…drum roll, please…here it comes…almost there…wait for iiiiiiiiiit…) Seabiscuit.

By the way, the cinematography in War Horse is absolutely beautiful. Spielberg even supposedly said that there were only three shots using digital effects (to ensure safety of the horses) and everything else on screen really happened, which is pretty cool. But making jokes about the ingredients of glue is not cool.

OH, SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW: Don’t watch this movie after dark or you’ll have night-mares.

world war i movie war horseI came across an interesting account from an interview with the book’s author, Michael Morpurgo. After describing how he met a certain little boy named Billy, the author recounted the following:

The teachers warned me that he had a stammer and told me not to ask him direct questions because it would terrify him if he had to be made to speak…

I came in the last evening into the yard behind this big Victorian house where they all live, and there he was, Billy, standing in his slippers by the stable door and the lantern above his head, talking. Talking, talking, talking, to the horse. And the horse, Hebe, had her head just over the top of the stable, and she was listening; that’s what I noticed, that the ears were going, and I knew she knew that she had to stay there whilst this went on, because this kid wanted to talk, and the horse wanted to listen—this was a two way thing…

I went and got the teachers, and brought them up through the vegetable garden, and we stood there in the shadows, and we listened to Billy talking, and they were completely amazed how this child who couldn’t get a word out—the words were simply flowing. All the fear had gone, and there was something about the intimacy of this relationship, the trust building up between boy and horse, that I found enormously moving, and I thought: Well yes, you could write a story about the First World War through the eyes of a horse, let the horse tell the story, and let the story of the war come through the soldiers—British soldiers first of all, then German soldiers, then a French family with whom the horse spends winters, and that maybe you’ll then get a universal idea of the suffering of the First World War.

There will always be suffering in this world, and not only in times of war. But even in the darkest hours of our suffering, the Lord will find ways to send us small rays of light. Those subtle messages will bring us the comfort and peace we need if we are willing to patiently watch with eyes of faith.

So whatever hard thing you might be going through right now, whatever war you still have to fight, remember you never have to fight it alone.

And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? 

And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.

And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” — 2 Kings 6:15-17

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