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Carl the Critic: Reviews "War Horse" [Caution: Contains Plot Spoilers]

Updated on March 18, 2013

"War Horse" Poster

"War Horse" Trailer


My "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" review has been delayed again, you see I am with my family and therefore can only watch family friendly movies (the highest rating being PG-13), and because I didn't want to watch "Alvin and the Chipmunks" I decided to return to my dear buddy Steven Spielberg with his newest release "War Horse".

"War Horse" was initially a children's book, by Michael Morpurgo, that was turned in to a stage play. Although I haven't read the book myself (you may notice that I don't read a lot), I was familiar with the play enough to know what this movie is about. It also is currently nominated for two Golden Globes: "Best Motion Picture (Drama)" and "Best Original Score", but is it that good? My review for "The Adventures of Tintin" was a nice film, not too special, and I gave it a moderate recommendation, so will the same be for "War Horse"?

I'm getting a head of myself though let's take a gander at the story of "War Horse"


The story is told through the point of a part-Thoroughbred horse that will later be named Joey. Joey is taken away from his mother and is auctioned off to a poor farmer to be used as a plow horse, but forms a close bond with the farmer's son Albert. At first Albert and Joey form a close bond until Albert's father had to sell the horse to Captain Nicholls of the British army in order to pay the ruthless landlord. From here Joey goes on a dangerous adventure through World War One as he moves from person to person and we learn more and more about what is the true meaning of courage.


I really liked the story, it's well structured, there's great character development, and has a great (and subtle) message of bravery.
However, the real selling point of the film is Joey the horse, the way the horses (all fourteen of them) in the movie give Joey human characteristics, it almost makes you forget that he is a horse. There was one scene in the movie when Joey and his new horse friend Topthorn are captured by German soldiers and are forced to carry German artillery, and a German officer wants Topthorn to pull a huge missile launcher. A German soldier tries to tell the officer that Topthorn's legs are damaged and that he can't carry the missile launcher, and then Joey rides forward as if to say "Let me do it instead!" There are other moments in the film where Joey shows he has human characteristics, but you really need to see to believe.

Story aside, this film is has some of the best cinematography (if not THE best cinematography) of any film that came out this year. Every shot of the movie was perfect, for example when we are first introduced to Emilie, there is an extreme close up on Joey's eye so we can see her reflection (which I thought was very cool, and creative because we are watching this movie through Joey's eyes). There's another scene I mention in my spoilers which I feel was the best shot of the film, but I don't want to spoil the plot here just in case you are interested in watching the film for yourself.

Editing was perfect too, there is a transition where Albert's mother (played by Emily Watson) is knitting, and there is a cross-dissolve into the field where Albert and Joey are trying to plow, and the knit work turned into the field that Albert was plowing.

In fact, the film overall was almost perfect (no film is ever 100% perfect) but this movie does come pretty close. It seems like this was a film that Spielberg really wanted to make, and although "The Adventures of Tintin" wasn't bad either, you can tell a lot more thought and care went into this movie. Spielberg is known for his great war dramas and I'd say that this is definitely one more of them.

The story of Emilie and her Grandfather in the film does seem to pad the story out more than it needs to and without wishing to spoil anything; their ending is a real downer. But then again this can be overlooked by the fact that the rest of the film is really well done.

I guess you can say that it's not as good as the book, but I can't because I haven't read it. All I know is that after watching the film I downloaded the audio book on iTunes to hear for myself.

The story of Emilie and her Grandfather in the film does seem to pad the story out more than it needs to and without wishing to spoil anything, their ending is a real downer. But then again this can be overlooked by the fact that the rest of the film is really well done.

I guess you can say that it's not as good as the book, but I can't because I haven't read it. All I know is that after watching the film I downloaded the audio-book on iTunes to hear for myself.


I know I enjoyed it, I highly suggest checking it out. It's definitely one of the best films of the year (in my opinion), it's got a great story, great cinematography, great editing, and it's just all around a great movie. I give it a 9.6 out of 10.

What about you?

If you saw "War Horse", what did you think?

See results


Here's a list of people who die:

  • Captain Nicholls
  • Gunther and Michael (Two German boy soldiers who tried to run away from the German Military and are executed)
  • Topthorn (Joey's horse friend, who dies from exhaustion)
  • Emilie (the little French girl who died after German Soldiers stole her horse)

Remember when I mentioned earlier that there was great cinematography in the film? Well one of the best shots of the film in my opinion was Gunther and Michael's execution. The German Military finds Gunther and Michael hiding in a windmill (but not the horses for some reason), The take them in front of the windmill to be executed. We see the two boys well lit, and German soldiers readying their guns to open fire, then a blade of the windmill covers up the boys right as we hear a gun shot, and then there's the reveal of the two brother's dead bodies. It was a hard scene to watch for most of the audience, but I thought that it was very powerful.

Joey is discovered, entangle in barbed wire by both the British and German soldiers. After he is freed, Joey is brought to the English military hospital where Albert is being treated (earlier, Albert cam into contact with Tear Gas, and became blind for a little bit.) The doctor suggests killing the horse because he has an injured leg. Once Albert learns that a horse was found in "No Man's Land", he whistles for him, and thus we reunite Albert with Joey. After proving that Joey is his horse, the doctor then treats Joey as the soldier that he is.
Albert's vision has been repaired, but because Joey is a horse of a soldier, not a horse of a general, Joey needs to be auctioned off. All of the soldiers pitch in to help Albert win Joey, but then Emilie's Grandfather bids £100 to win the horse. But Albert talks to the grandfather (this is where we learn that Emilie is dead) and Emilie's Grandfather gives Albert a flag that he identifies as the one he tied on to Joey before the soldiers went into war. So Albert gets the horse back, and brings him to the farm, meets with his mother and father, and they all live happily ever after... OR DO THEY!?!... Just kidding yes they do.

Carl the Critic 2011©


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    • CarltheCritic1291 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Thank you very much Rhonda, I appreciate the comment. Hope you enjoy the film :)

    • Rhonda Waits profile image

      Rhonda Musch 

      6 years ago from The Emerald Coast

      Hi I haven't seen the movie yet. I am looking forward to seeing it though. Thanks for your review.

      Sweet wishes Rhonda

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      lol Sorry, I did warn that there were spoilers :) Usually I put them at the end (that way, readers who haven't seen the film, can read the important stuff and then scroll past the "what about you?" and "Spoilers"). Sorry for spoiling the ending for you, but thanks for the comment and vote :)

    • BRIAN SLATER profile image

      Brian Slater 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi Carl, I wouldn't normally go to see a movie like this but after reading your review I feel quite tempted and will go. Btw wish you hadn't given the spoilers away, I tried hard not to read them but couldn't resist.! Voted up :)

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Oh I can believe it. 14 of those horses played Joey, another 14 or so might have played Topthorn, not to mention a whole bunch of other horses that may or may not have been seen in the film. Need to be ready just in case one trips and breaks their leg... and then you can't really use them any more :( but on a brighter note, yes I do believe that Spielberg used over 100 horses total (but not 100 horses playing one character, that would be silly) :) Thanks again for stopping by (P.S. who was your source?)

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 

      6 years ago

      Hey Carl, I was just reading that supposedly Spielberg had over a 100 horses trained for this movie. can you honestly believe that?

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      lol I hope you enjoy it as much as I did Bruce, thanks for stopping by :)

    • Cogerson profile image


      6 years ago from Virginia

      Glad to see that you like the movie so is actually a movie my wife is interested in seeing. About 90% of the movies we see are kids movies, as we have kids....but sometimes we sneak in a movie for we will be seeing this movie sometime this weekend....we

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Yes Beth, definitely check this out, it is well worth the $7 (in my opinion). Hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and thanks for commenting :)

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 

      6 years ago from Tennesee

      Well Carl, you've changed my mind about seeing this one and I'll have to give it a try now. I thought surely it'd be sap-city, but you make it sound intelligent and creatively ambitious. Thanks for posting!

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Yeah no problem man, any time :)

      I haven't seen the newer "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", but that's on my to do list for sure.

      "War Horse" should be nominated for a few Oscars but we'll just have to wait and see. I highly suggest checking this film out when you have the time. Thanks for the comment and support man :)

    • Stevennix2001 profile image

      Steven Escareno 

      6 years ago

      wow, this movie sounds like a great film, as i'll definitely be sure to check it out soon. with the amount of hype it's getting, i wouldn't be surprised if this film got nominated for a few oscars too. i just saw young adults, but i haven't reviewed it yet. i was going to see "girl with a dragon tattoo" next, but after reading this hub, im now debating on whether i should see this film next instead. decisions decisions, i guess. lol. anyway, keep up the good work as always buddy, and thanks for the support earlier.

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Hey Rob, it's nominated for two Golden Globes including Best Picture (Drama) and Best Original Score, and boy does it deserve them. It really is one of the best films of the year. Hope you enjoy it and thanks for stopping by, it's always great to hear from you :)

    • Robwrite profile image


      6 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Hi Carl; I'm looking forward to seeing this film. It's gotten some good reviews and is nominated for a Golden Globe.

      Thanks for the well written review,


    • CarltheCritic1291 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Okay, thanks for stopping by tschaunerb, always great to hear from you :)

    • tschaunerb profile image


      6 years ago from Medicine Hat

      I saw this movie, this week as well. I agree it is a near "perfect" film.


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