War Horse wrestles with the theme of bravery. It asks “What does it mean to be brave?” and “What is a good example of bravery?”
Unlike many movies that just ask questions, this movie actually helps the audience find answers.
Bravery is not just the cavalier charge of the noble horse solders. It is also an old man refusing to be proud. It is an energetic youth risking the machine gun fire to help save the lives of his friends. It is a wife standing by her husband in hard times. It is a little girl keeping her head when threatened by greedy solders. It is a grandfather staying above the foray, focusing on the task before him. Bravery is not one of these things, it is all of them.
There are great moments in the film like when an English solder exclaims to a German, “You speak English good!” and the German responds, “I speak English well.”
The most astonishing scene, however, is when the Joey, the War Horse, goes running through, over, and between the dark trenches and solders. That scene is nothing short of breathtaking and spectacular. Over all, Spielberg fills the film with epic shots of the English countryside, cavalry charges through flowery meadows, and sunsets.
Although some complain that the film is an emotional roller coaster, I believe that it is a story about bravery, sacrifice, and the joy that life can bring from unexpected places.
For the parents who are worried about the PG-13 rating (for implied war violence and thematic elements), I have a few words: War Horse does show the brutality of WWI, but without blood and guts. They made it for kids. You see that the war was hard, but the violence level is less than the violence in the classic Gary Cooper film, Sergeant York.
In fact, this is the first movie I have ever seen that feels like an old movie done today. It has the family friendly elements of a classic black and white film, but the creative stunning visuals from Spielberg, a powerful John Williams soundtrack, and the dazzling precision of modern effects.
For you horse lovers out there, I would say that the movie is a cross between King of the Wind and Sergeant York. It is a classic horse story that deserves a place beside Misty, Black Beauty, and The Black Stallion.
All told, I believe this to be the most inspiring family movie this year.
By Jeremiah Lorrig
By Jeremiah Lorrig