Magazine article The Christian Century

War Horse

Magazine article The Christian Century

War Horse

Article excerpt

War Horse

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Starring Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch and Emily Watson

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War Horse is ideal material for Steven Spielberg. His adaptation of the children's novel by Michael Morpurgo comes to the screen by way of the celebrated National Theatre stage version, which has been entrancing audiences of all ages on Broadway since last season. It's the story of a magnificent auburn stallion named Joey, trained by a Devon farm boy, Albert Narracott, and then sold by his father to the army at the outset of World War I.

In the early scenes, the conflict is between Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his father Ted (Peter Mullah), a drunk who hobbles about on a game leg, a souvenir from the Boer Wars. Ted buys Joey at auction with money he can ill afford to spend: his farm is failing, and his landlord, Lyons (David Thewlis), would rather drive him off the land than see him make a success of it. Ted purchases the horse to hold his own against Lyons, who bids spitefully against him. Ted needs Joey to work the farm so that he can produce a sufficient crop to stave off his landlord, and when the yield is insufficient he uses the opportunity of the war to get a decent price for the horse.

The sequence in which Albert gets Joey to pull the plow--after a rainfall drives Lyons and the neighbors, watching from the sidelines, away--is rousing. You wish, though, that Spielberg hadn't lingered quite so long on the struggles of the boy and the horse--and on Lyons's delight in jeering at Albert and his father--and that he hadn't overworked John Williams's fine, melodic score. …

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