Steven Spielberg’s latest, War Horse, is based on a play (which in turn is based on a book). Considering the central character is a horse, I’d be curious to see how they pull that off on stage – do they use a real horse? The story is a pastiche of human events intertwined with the life of Joey, the horse of the movie’s title.
Spielberg’s adaption feels like a faithful recreation of a play. That is, there’s a very clear delineation between each of the movie’s sections, and like some stage-to-screen adaptations (e.g. Chicago), the main difference is that the backgrounds and props are real instead of stage contrivances.
Not being a history buff, I found the movie’s depiction of certain aspects of World War I odd – why did the English charge the Germans on horseback with swords, when guns clearly existed (and were used enthusiastically throughout the rest of the movie)? But being primarily a horse biography rather than a war flick (which I don’t normally like), I quite enjoyed it.
The themes were often quite depressing – the movie endeavours to show that the war was hard on people on both sides – but there were times when attempts to lighten the mood seriously threatened the film’s credibility. One scene featuring a pesky goose wandered dangerously close to Babe territory, and you almost expect the animals to start talking.
There’s also a very close resemblence to the 2005 foreign film Joyeux Noël, but I won’t spoil the particulars of that for you.
If you like horses, there’s probably no question that you’ll like this movie and should go see it. Likewise if you enjoy dramas. For everyone else, this is probably a DVD rental.