War Horse

I watched this movie last night and wanted to write a review about it.
War Horse is a movie that aired the first time in 2011 and is about a horse that goes through a lot of hardship in its life. The main characters of this movie are a horse and his first friend Albert. The horse has various names through the whole movie, but Albert calls him “Joey” and I will use this name to refer to the horse through this review.

The first scenes of the movie are of Joey’s birth in 1912 and growing up. As he comes of age he is getting sold at an auction. Ted Narracot, a farmer, wo actually wanted to buy a working horse for his farm gets a liking to it and offers really high against his landlord Lyon. The landlord and his wife aren’t happy about his decision, but his son, Albert, immediately offers his help to train the new horse to get him used to the work. Albert starts to train Joey and teaches him to follow an owl’s call. As the situation of the farm gets grave Joey is able to surprise everyone and plows the field. The farm seems safe, but the corn gets washed away 0during a storm.

As the First World War starts, Ted Narracot decides to sell the horse to pay up his debts. The new owner Captain Nicholls promises Albert to take good care of Joey and return him after the war.  Albert ties his father’s pennant to Joey’s bridle. Joey meets Topthorn, the horse of an officer and they become friends. Nicholls ties the pennant onto Joey’s saddle before they encounter German forces on a French battlefield, where they seem to surprise the enemies at first, but the soldiers are running towards the forest and fire back with guns, killing most of the British cavallery – including Captain Nicholls. Joey gets captured by the Germans.

The Germans want to shoot the horses, but a young soldier named Michael saves Joey’s and Topthorn’s lives. From now on they drag the medical wagon. Günther and his 14 year old brother Michael care for the horses, but as Michael walks for the front line, Günther gives Michael the pennant as a “good luck” charm, then saddles the horses, grabs his brother as he walks in line for the front and flees with him and the two horses from the army. The boys spend the night in a windmill, but get captured and shot by the Germans.

The horses remain hidden in the windmill until they get found by Emelie, a French girl. She brings the horses to the farm of her grandfather, who is worried about having the horses on his land. She names the horses: Francois and Claude. German soldiers plunder their belongings, unable to discover the horses in Emelie’s bedroom. The girl suffers from a disease that weaken her bones and therefore she is not allowed to ride any horse, but for her birthday Emelie’s grandfather gifts Emelie her mother’s saddle and allows her to ride Joey, but as she doesn’t comes back, her grandfather gets worried and discovers that she got caught by German troops who take the two horses with them. The pennant remains with the grandfather.

Joey and Topthorn are meant to pull heavy artillery, which is an exhausting job for them and kills the horses quickly – either by gunfire or exhaustion. They are in the care of Private Friedrich, who does everything for the horses.

By 1918 Albert and his childhood friend Andrew join the army under the command of David, Lyon’s son. Albert, Andrew and other British soldiers manage to get into a deserted German trench, where a gas bomb explodes taking several lifes.

Joey and Topthorn survived years of hardship in the German army, but Topthorn succumbs to exhaustion and dies. The German flee from enemy troops and Friedrich needs to leave Joey to the danger of an oncoming tank. The horse escapes and gallops through the battlefield and gets caught in barbe wired barriers. Both German and British sides spot Joey in the no-man’s land, not believing a horse survived the battle. British soldier Colin raises a white flag and decides to rescue the horse, while German soldier Peter comes with wire cutters to do the same. Both soldiers join their forces to save the horse and become friends. They want to box over him and decide to flip a coin over the decision who claims the horse. Colin wins and brings Joey into the British trend.

Albert lost his friend Andrew in war and is temporarily blinded in the British medical camp, where Colin brings Joey to be taken care of. The doctor doesn’t see a chance for the horse to survive and orders to put the horse down. Joey is about to be shot when he hears the owl call he heard when he was a colt. Albert is being led through the troops and repeats the owl’s call and Joey takes of to face his friend. Albert explaines that he raised Joey and gives, still blinded, a concrete description of Joey’s markings. The soldiers wash of the mud of Joey and confirm the description – so Joey gets finally treatment for his wounds.

On the 11th November, 1918 at 11am the war is finally over, Albert’s eyesight recovered and the British soldiers are about to go home. Sadly only officer’s horses are going to be shipped back, so Joey will get auctioned. Albert accepts funds of fellow soldiers to buy Joey back and offers against a French butcher who bids 30 pounds. A final bid of 100 pounds is entered by Emelie’s grandfather. No other bid is given, so Joey belongs to the grandfather who wants to take him back to his farm in memory of his granddaughter, who passed away.

Albert lets Joey go, but surprises everyone when he returns to Albert instead of leaving with the old man. The grandfather takes out the military pennant and shows it to Albert who immediately recognizes it. His quick reaction convinces the old man it would be better to return the horse to Albert as it would be according to what Emelie would have wanted. Finally Joey and Albert return home where Albert hands the pennant to his father who acknowledges him as a man.

I really liked the movie – it is a really nice drama. I can’t say if the things which were shown in the movie are according to what really happened in the war, but the story was incredibly well explained and I didn’t doubt it for even a second.
As I really like horse movies this is one of my favorites now! Totally worth watching it when you like movies about war and horses and dramatic stories (especially because everyone who cares for the horse dies in that movie, except Albert).
I watched the movie on
Dutch TV: Film1 Premiere
Language: English, Subtitles: Dutch

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