Pros: Incredible cinematography
Cons: to disjointed
unrealistic use of horse sense
This Spielberg film was made for animal lovers, though I do wonder if they followed the making of the film to see if indeed any animals were hurt or injured in any way.
The doubles for the horses were incredibly good and looked just like the stars they stood in for.
OK, enough silliness but there is a point to this. I felt Spielberg was trying to be manipulative in drawing the viewer into believing horsesare not only intelligent and have feelings but, also understand multi-layered problems and consequence.
This film opens at the onset of World War I. A young Englishman played by Jeremy Irvine, too young to join the army, follows the growth of a horse "Joey," from foal to yearling. His father (Peter Mullan) a good hearted and well meaning but stubborn drunkard, purchases the horse at auction.
Unfortunately for him, his wife ( well played by Emily Watson) and the boy this is not ahorse that can be used as a draft animal and now they will lose their farm. Wrong! Much to the surprise of all the villagers who come out to see him fail, and to rare circumstance, the animal does the job of plowing a multi-acres of rock hard fields of stone.
As the war breaks out the horse goes to the army for use in the cavalry. From there the horse moves from England to France to temporary keepers including the English, French and Germans. That's the film, a horse being used and abused in war. We follow "Joey" and those who befriend him (yes, his human qualities allow that) as he somehow makes if through disaster and more disaster but wait, this is a "Miracle Horse."...and that's what one must believe in to get through this film.
Please don't get me wrong about this film. It's one that offers good values and stands for solid ideals I agree with. It also has to be one of the most visually stunning films ever made.( Isee an Oscar for it) So many screen shots looked like Thomas Kinkade paintings and I don't mean in a cheap commercial sense. They truly were beautiful in the balance of light and shadows and how they meld in each scene. The camera angles used added much to the film too.
The use of animals on the screen were awesome! A few particular runs both in and out of war were amazing to watch! The actors were excellent and the music fit the film well. It was the story itself that was too mis-jointed for my comfort along with the horse/human manipulation.
The opening of the film, if I can use an English expression, was 'brilliant.' There was continuity and an attachment to the actors. Unfortunately the horse who is the star of the film goes on adventures on its own. Sorry but the horse couldn't carry this film. As we enter each point in the movie we meet new people but, even Spielberg, with all his movie magic, just doesn't have the time to develop all those characters. It was hit and miss and then there was some confusion in my mind as to who, what and why?
The thing that turned me off most though was placing extraordinary human qualities onto a horse. An example is a scene with "Joey" and a companion horse from England. In the heat of battle, mud and rain a horse is needed to help pull of huge canon up a steep hill after the lead horse falls to the ground and is put out of its misery. An officer calls for the bigger horse of the two, "Joey's" companion, to take the dead horse's place, The horse-keeper notes it has a bad leg but the officer says to use the bigger horse anyway. Suddenly, knowing exactly what is taking place, "Joey" breaks to the front of the team and puts itself into the lead position sparing his companion horse certain death of mismanagement and overuse. Yuck! There were real human heroes in war and I have to look at a horse that not only is intelligent and feeling but one that also understands consequence.
All that said, I still recommend the film for its cinematic beauty, strong ideals and intermittent sparks of movie magic that Spielberg leaves on every film he directs.