War Horse – Beyond the Pages and the Movie

Disclaimer. I do not regularly review movies. In this case, I make an exception.

In 1983, author Michael Morpurgo wrote a sweeping saga for a young audience of WWI told through the perspective of a horse plucked from a Devon farm and following that horse’s journey through the battlefields of France. In 2007, it was adapted for the stage and as of December 25, 2011 the movie adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg arrives in theaters.

I was blessed with the opportunity to see an advanced screening. I tore through the book the night before (I always read the book first if I can help it.)

Wow. Wow. Wow.

Between the book and movie, I can barely catch my breath.

War Horse What is it about seeing an event or message through an animal’s perspective that makes it so much more powerful? Think Charlotte’s Web, Black Beauty, Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows… Perhaps that is best saved for a separate post. 

Well, War Horse is a powerful story. And that is putting it lightly.

Aside from World War One possibly being one of the most horrendous wars the earth has ever seen, this was a turning point for human civilization. The meeting of new technologies (machine guns) and old (calvary.)

In this tale, a thoroughbred farm horse named Joey is taken from the boy who raised and trained him to serve in the British calvary. The stout-hearted horse encounters battle after battle, obstacle after obstacle and sees nearly every side of the war.

This movie isn’t for the faint of heart. It is an emotional workout and yet worth every toiling moment. Artistic and beautiful cinematography combine with a stirring score by John Williams.

The story itself brings to light so many issues — from the way we treated these animals who fought so valiantly, to the effect of war itself, and to the healing connection between man and beast.

For me, I saw every horse I’ve ever owned in Joey. I saw every type of horse owner I’ve ever met in the characters themselves. I saw every sort of abuse, neglect, abandonment and prejudice of the animal that you can still find today. I also saw the same pampering, caring and spoiling that you find among true horse lovers.

A beautiful balance of lighthearted moments and intense battle scenes, this movie will get to you at the core. Whether you love horses or not, this movie will both enlighten and entertain.

(As a sort of bonus, there are even some really great lines for grammar-lovers.)

Treat yourselves this Christmas and go see “War Horse.” Trust me.

War Horse


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Community Champion at Buffer ~ writer ~ reader ~ urban homesteader ~ former rodeo queen ~ @nmillerbooks