Movie Review: “War Horse”

Special thanks to Lorne Warawa (someone who’s been there, done that and has the t-shirt) for allowing me to share his review of “War Horse”.

Most of you know me well enough not to be surprised when I say I’m a culture snob who would rather watch 70’s black exploitation films than whatever dreck Disney pumped out last year, of for that matter the decade before. Modern family-oriented films are a bleak and mundane shadow of former efforts. In the great pursuit of money and more stock options, our kids have been fed on a steady diet of the most manipulative and condescending tripe to have been produced since the great movie-houses of Joe Stalin called it quits. Nary a thoughtful or demanding script can be found in the family values offal that has been fostered on you all, and I am sure your kids are growing up with the expectations of being spoon-fed their culture out of heaping barrels of the lowest common denominator. But I have good news for you. There is hope that your kids can have the sort of cinematic experience of value that follows watching a classic for the first time. I have a film you should see.

Teresa and I got free tickets to see Steven Spielberg’s new movie “Warhorse” last night in Montreal. It was an initiative between Dreamworks and military veterans. In Canada this special screening was coordinated by the Royal Canadian Legion, and you could apply online for the tickets, which we received when we got there. The film is scheduled to open across North America Christmas day, but Spielberg wanted a special screening for serving members and their families. It was interesting that there was a lot of security, but you must bear in mind that this was because of the reputation Montreal has for movie piracy.

This is a family film, but I do not recommend it for very small children. However, if you want your older children about the age of 6 up to see a film that expresses all the intensity and horror of war without the graphic violence and tells a story that anyone could fall in love with, this is the movie they will remember when they want their kids to watch a classic. I have to warn you now that if you are an animal lover, and especially of horses, there will be moments in this film that will haunt you terribly. There were a few scenes that had more pathos and drama for me than the death of Bambys’ mother, and I know that scene from Bambi is the gold standard for tear jerking film moments. I won’t spoil the story but I will say it is based on the full scope of WW1 from a family’s struggle to scrape by up to the end of the war.

The film is shot without regard to expense of limitations, and captures the era wonderfully. The transition from pastoral farmland set in timeless rolling hills to the cratered wasteland of the film’s climax is the stuff of Oscar nominations, and I’m sure there will be many. But I think Spielberg wanted to highlight the wastage of war that is personified in the plight of war horses, millions of which fell victim to that conflict’s madness. Spielberg was brilliant in illustrating just how death in that war was so meaningless, and he chose to do it not from a human perspective, but that of the animals we ensnarled in our own insane self-destruction.

I can’t recommend this film enough. It will be different from other war films we soldiers come to love over time but will in time become just as much a classic. Unfortunately there was so few people who took advantage of the special screening. I hope you get the chance to see it in a theatre, where the full grandure of the tale will come through.

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