Stevesie Spielberg is going back to war, and this time there's no Vin Diesel! War Horse is set during World War I, and we follow the paths of a young Englishman and his horsefriend, Joey. Joey has been drafted to the cavalry and sent to the front lines, so young Albert enlists and sets off to rescue the galloping goofball. Each of their journeys is fraught with peril, and as much battle horror as a PG-13 will allow. The war scenes are stunning, the score by Dr. John Williams is an instant classic, and the horsework on display would put a smile on the face of Eomer, Third Marshal of the Riddermark. You may have to swallow the occasional slice of cheese, but hey, it's Spielberg's cheddar. You've had worse.
This baby's an epic, and she clocks in at 146 minutes. That's a lot of horse-play! In addition to sweeping action scenes, the relationship between Albert and Joey will get its hooks in you. Sure, we could do with fewer zooms into Albert's earnest, welling-up face, but he's a brave lad, and god damned if he doesn't love that horse. The horses playing Joey have given us the best animal-in-a-leading-role performance since Bart shredded our heartstrings in The Bear. Joey is brave and loyal, and he's got more spirit than the Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Albert is fine, but it's the horse we love, and when he bolts past trenches donkey-kicking Prussians, your heart will soar. And I'm not horsing around!
Despite crystal skullfucking us a few years back, S. Spielberg's game is solid here. He walks the line of war action, emotional drama, and the right amount of awe for a great night at the movies. It's no E.T., but enough of the elements are there for us all to enjoy ourselves. Also, David Thewlis pops in to provide some wisdom. And that's good horse sense!
In the end, War Horse has you by the horseballs. Like The Black Stallion, it's a more adult horse movie, but it's still a horse movie, and once you fall in love with Joey, your emotions are Steven's to toy with. He'll twist and milk you as you pray for Joey's safe return, he'll honk you with the excitement and dread of the battle, and you'll eat it out of his hand like a sugar cube. And if you're not choked up when Joey finally pulls an Artax, you've got a heart of stone.
And that's no horse shit!
Dorien Sez: A-
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