War Horse

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Michael Morpurgo
Released: 2011
Starring: Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup, Jeremy Irvine

Wow. What a spectacular disappointment.

So I went into the cinema with my tissues already to go, as I was expecting another epic Spielberg film that would be as shocking and as accurate as Saving Private Ryan and even more tragic and as touching as Black Beauty.


How I felt before War Horse – ready for a sad and heroic film


Me when the film began


Me when the film ended

I was forgiving at first:

“Okay, the colt is played by a filly… I can get over that…”

“Okay, the foal has different markings to the previous scene…”

But then we got to Albert training the horse, Joey. My suspension of disbelief was non-existent when it was implied that the horse was trained by being spoken to – in English no less.

Joey with horse


I mean the farmer dude was saying “hey Joey. Stay… Stay… Stay…. Now come here!” and the horse would come trotting over when he said so… I mean with NO previous training – that’s not possible.

Believe you me, horses don’t learn things by being spoken at. (Although I couldn’t help but try it out on my horse Apache when I got home… He looked at me weird then turned and walked away.

Nor do horses learn by copying a human, such as when Albert wanted to put a harness on Joey. They obviously had two stunt horses; the first one threw his head around at the sight of the harness, but then Albert was all like; come on Joey we need you to plough the field… See you just put your nose through like this’. Then the boy put his head through the harness to show the horse what he meant (smart guy).


Then, HEY PRESTO! The horse had learned, and the other stunt horse – who was trained to have a harness on – seamlessly took the previous horse’s place and they were ready to go to plough the field! Warm and fuzzies… But, I. Mean. Seriously.

I was almost sick in my mouth when Joey ‘taught’ his horse friend how to put a harness on… Because that’s what horses would really do.

Emilie and the two main horses

Moving on from the horse, the human actors – to put it plainly – sucked ass. Some of the actors couldn’t quite hold their accents very well, such as Emilie (Celine Buckens) who was supposed to be a French girl yet she sounded English. (Hey I was right! I just checked Wikipedia and she is English.)

Some of the actors were very unbelievable, particularly on the battle fields, like when a soldier got shot in the leg, Albert helped him up and they both ran to safety… Ran to safety… Running.

I didn’t shed a tear or feel upset AT ALL during this movie, except, perhaps, when it finished because I felt so disappointed.

I was expecting epic music like Danny Elfman’s in Black Beauty which makes you cry just listening to it. I was expecting fewer stereotypical scenes and more realistic reactions from horses. But they gave the animals human emotions… and the ability to understand English…

I think that’s what made this film go completely topsy-turvey. It was a horrific and graphic story that was seriously sugar-coated. I believe it was aimed at the younger audiences who have recently been weened off Disney films.

Steven, it could have been A-MA-ZING if it was historically accurate!

WAR HORSE soldiersThere were two scenes, however, that had the potential to be memorable scenes if they didn’t try to shelter the audience so much. One was when two German soldiers were shot because they tried to escape the fight on horseback. But the windmill blocked your vision and the extreme wide shot added zero emotion to it.

War-horse_sillouetteThe other scene was when the English soldier surrendered to walk onto the battlefield to rescue ‘Joey’ from barbed wire and the German enemy came to help. Now this scene would have been so meaningful if it wasn’t for them being too casual with each other. It was pretty much the sort of conversation two old highschool bullies would have had if they met each other forty years later in a department store.

Really?? This is war! Not something to be made light heartedly. Spielberg should know that – he made the most accurate WW2 movie in Hollywood’s history.

War-horse-2_fieldI expected Saving Private Ryan/Schindler’s List mixed with Black Beauty... Not Babe mixed with a film that should have gone straight to DVD…

Jodie’s regretful and disappointing rating of: 3/10

Awwwww but the trailer looks so goooooood!! :( Especially the part where the horses are in the girl’s room. (But when you watch the film you see that to get to Emilie’s room, the horses would have had to climb up a staircase that looked like a ladder…)

About NZ Film Freak

I am a journalism graduate (2014) from New Zealand. Currently working in marketing, and writing fiction in my spare time. I love to write about movies on this blog when I can. I also do paid reviews and voiceovers via Fiverr (nzfilmfreak).
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7 Responses to War Horse

  1. Steve says:

    I haven’t seen the film. Now I won’t bother. Cheers.

  2. Anastasia says:

    Watched this film with family a couple of weeks ago & having read your blog couldn’t agree more with everything you said. Like you I REALLY wanted to like this film, but felt let down & dumbed down at the end – wish I’d read your HONEST review before I went!!!

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