Equestrian pans War Horse movie; lacks gravity and respect for horse

//Equestrian pans War Horse movie; lacks gravity and respect for horse
War Horse movie staring Jeremy Irvine as Albert is unrealistic according to one equestrian

War Horse movie staring Jeremy Irvine as Albert is unrealistic according to one equestrian

War Horse Review by Haven Leavitt


For many equestrians, a Steven Spielberg movie about horses promised an exciting tale reflecting the human-equine bond while conveying what war means to those involved. Having heard that War Horse was a tearjerker, I braced myself for what I imagined would be an emotional and enlightening two hours. I left feeling underwhelmed. The movie’s treatment of war, the role of the horse in the war, and the majority of the characters seemed superficial. From an equestrian’s point of view, the thoroughbred, Joey, played a relatively minor role in the film, and the relationship between Albert Narracott and his horse is shallow and one-sided.

In War Horse – gruesomeness of war lacks finesse. Joey Albert photo courtesy of Dreamworks

In War Horse – gruesomeness of war lacks finesse. Joey photo courtesy of DreamWorks



In War Horse – gruesomeness of war lacks finesse


It seems that Spielberg has lost all subtlety when it comes to conveying themes. Instead of asking his viewers to come to conclusions on their own, his characters now tell the viewer explicitly what they should be taking away, often multiple times. In War Horse, the scenes depicting the gruesomeness of war were lacking in finesse. Instead of letting the viewer reach the obvious conclusion that the work horses pulling a cannon are going to die of overexertion, Spielberg shows us a horse failing, then pans over a pile of dead horses for good measure. As far as the cinematography goes, the vistas are beautiful, but the film editing diminishes their beauty, rather than enhancing. Hyper-coloration makes the film feel cartoonish, instead of something that imparts real beauty and real suffering.

Equestrian says characters in War Horse are underdeveloped. Here Director Steven Spielberg talks with Jeremy Irvine who plays Albert

Equestrian says characters in War Horse are underdeveloped. Here Director Steven Spielberg talks with Jeremy Irvine who plays Albert

Characters in War Horse underdeveloped


The characters in War Horse are static and underdeveloped, particularly young Albert – so fresh faced and earnest. Other characters were briefly introduced to give the audience their message, then whisked away, never to be seen again. The thread that was meant to tie them all together, Joey, was never more than a backdrop for the human struggles. The two exceptions were Albert’s mother and father. Ted Narracott was introduced as a heavy drinker with a hard hand, but his character was given depth via Albert’s mother, Rose. The dialogue between Rose and Albert about his father’s experience with war and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was the most sophisticated writing in the film.

According to one equestrian, Albert's training technique was unrealistic and borderline abusive.

According to one equestrian, Albert's training technique was unrealistic and borderline abusive.

War Horse doesn’t feel like a movie about horses

Despite the effort made to dramatize the story of the war horse, War Horse doesn’t feel like a movie about horses. Albert’s training technique was unrealistic and borderline abusive, but the audience is meant to believe that an unbreakable bond between boy and horse has been forged. To me, the most important message that the film could have offered was a critique on the way that war demands unnatural actions and unwavering obedience from both humans and the animals that trust us. Spielberg briefly approaches the idea, but fails to develop it. In the end, War Horse could have been educational and thoughtfully done, but ended up lacking gravity and failing to show respect for the horse.


War Horse – love it or hate it?


Have you seen the movie War Horse? Did you love it or were you disappointed in the movie?

This is a guest post by Haven Leavitt. Haven is a lifelong equestrian. She  lives in Gallatin Gateway, Montana and is a Pre-Veterinary student at Montana State University.

Related Posts:

Secretariat – The Movie

War Horse comes to cinema

Movie Critic Jane Boursay praises War Horse


Publicity photos courtesy of DreamWorks

2017-06-27T11:45:15+00:00 February 22nd, 2012|Reviews|

5 Comments

  1. Kristen Caven March 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    The most telling part, to me, was the fact that the 4 horses who played Joey were not mentioned by name in the credits. As if they were props!

  2. Nancy D. Brown March 7, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    @Kristen
    I, personally, have not seen War Horse yet because I thought I’d boo hoo too much in the theater. Now that the movie is out on DVD, I need to get up to speed on everyone’s comments. Certainly, it is different watching a war movie about a horse from an equestrian’s standpoint. I’m sorry the four horses who played Joey in the movie War Horse did not receive any credit. Talk about “unsung heroes.”

  3. Haven Leavitt April 25, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    I just wanted to point out the hilarious juxtaposition of the last photo of Albert & Joey and the caption, particularly the “borderline abusive” part. I think that a better photo to explain what was meant by “borderline abusive” would have been a screenshot from the scene where Joey was forced to plow an entire field in the rain his first time under harness resulting in open wounds where the collar rubbed him raw. But at least the folks get to keep their farm, huh?

    As far as “unrealistic” goes, I would say that most horse trainers would agree that most horses don’t watch you stick your head through a collar once, then do it themselves. Wouldn’t that be nice, though?

    I didn’t want to go into detail too much for the review, but if anyone would like to hear further reasoning, I’m willing to explain further.

  4. Nancy D. Brown April 26, 2012 at 7:28 am

    @Haven
    Thanks for your comments Haven. I agree with you about the “publicity photo” supplied by War Horse not aligning with the photo caption. Thank you for clarifying your position and willingness to offer further explanation. In chatting with fellow equestrians, your review is spot on.

  5. Nancy D. Brown May 9, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    Hello Equestrian Holidays Ireland,
    Please note that the review of War Horse was a guest post by Haven Leavitt, an accomplished equestrian, currently enrolled in veterinary school. The opinions expressed regarding War Horse are those of the author.

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