Albert Narracott loved the thoroughbred horse from the moment he saw
him. When his father purchased the animal in a moment of pride, Albert
vowed to take care of him. He named his beloved horse Joey and instantly
set to work on training him.
Set in Europe during World War I, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse follows
Albert and Joey on an incredible journey of courage and adventure.
Played by newcomer Jeremy Irvine, Albert teaches Joey how to plow his
father’s field for planting, despite tremendous opposition from his
family and townspeople who do not think the small mare has the stamina.
When Albert’s father, Ted Narracott, sells Joey to the British
military in a moment of desperation, young Albert is devastated and
pleads with the soldier who purchased Joey to let him serve alongside
his animal. Capt. Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston, Thor) refuses because Albert is too young, but he agrees to return the horse when the war is over.
Albert soon finds out Capt. Nicholls has died in battle, and he fears
Joey has met the same fate. But the brave horse makes his way through
Europe as we watch him become acquired by German soldiers and then cared
for by a young girl and her grandfather in France.
Joey is eventually dragged back into battle and forced to haul heavy
artillery for soldiers intent on completing their mission with no
thought to the consequences the horses face. Though the thoroughbred
escapes, racing through ravaged lands, he entangles himself along the
way in barbed wire fences.
As viewers, we’re taken through a gripping journey of triumph,
sadness, hope and joy. Albert joins the war when he’s old enough in an
effort to find his dear horse. With Joey’s tenacity and Albert’s love,
it is hard not to believe these two will be reunited again—as impossible
as it may seem.
Because it is set in the middle of WWI, War Horse features
violence. Several battle scenes depict dead soldiers and horses strewn
on the battlefield. Two German traitors are executed and throughout the
film, horses are treated brutally. Albert is gassed in a battle scene,
and afterward he is badly scarred around the eyes.
Spielberg puts his own touch on the film, based on a young adult
novel that was adapted into an award-winning play. Though promoted
heavily among the “faith-based community,” War Horse doesn’t
contain overtly Christian messages beyond such elements as loyalty,
friendship and laying down your life for another—even if it’s a horse.
Characters mention God a handful of times, as when a down-on-his-luck
Ted Narracott tells his wife: “I used to believe God gave each man his
fair portion of bad luck. Now I don’t believe that anymore.” And when
Capt. Nicholls and Joey enter their first battle, the soldiers shout,
“Fear God! Honor the King!”
Though Spielberg’s latest wartime project has a heartwarming message
and contains no sexual content or noticeable profanity, the movie earns
its PG-13 rating for intense battle sequences. Families with young
children may opt to choose another movie on its Christmas Day release.
But those with teenagers will enjoy the tale of a young boy and the
incredible, unconditional love he has for a horse that is more friend
than farm animal.