Film Review: War Horse (or ‘An Overly Sentimental Love Story Between a Young Man and his Unfaithful Horse’)


The French eat them, the British love them and some Americans make love to them…or so that Channel 4 documentary that is burned in the memory of anyone who saw it would have you believe.

Personally, I’ve never seen the attraction. The only encounter I’ve ever had with a horse was when one kicked me in the face on a farm when I was about 6 years old. But don’t let that make you believe I’ve got some sort of agenda against them…I don’t. Of course I’m happy in the knowledge that that particular horse is probably long since dead, but I don’t hold a grudge against an entire species. Dogs, yes (but that’s another story for another day). horses, no.

It’s just that I don’t really see what’s so fascinating about them. I personally can’t see the difference between one horse and the next. I don’t see how people can look at a horse and comment on its beauty. What makes one horse more beautiful than the next? It just doesn’t make sense to me. I have no emotional attachment to them. Why do people not have the same level of affection for cows? Or goats?


Anyway, at this point you’re probably wondering why I even bothered with War Horse. Any member of the Horse World Order will be reading this already thinking ‘If he doesn’t love horses, what’s he doing going to see our film‘, and maybe they are right. But the film gets strong reviews from all and sundry and I don’t recall anyone suggesting that a prerequisite for going to see it was to be unnaturally excited at the sight of Trigger. Do you have to be a drug addict to like Breaking Bad? Or a terrorist to appreciate 24? No, of course not.

So What’s It All About?

Well would you believe it, it’s about a horse. But not just any horse…The Jesus Horse. A horse born under a wandering star. A horse that was so ‘beautiful’ that a simple, hard up farmer decided to buy it at market for far more than its worth and for a job it didn’t initially seem capable of.

But of course it was capable. The farmer’s son falls in love with it – literally – and trains it to plough the most impossible field that there ever was to plough.

The happy times ended soon after though as World War 1 was declared and the horse was sold to an officer in the army.

Without spoiling things too much, the horse manages to switch owners a further four times and pick up a big black horse sidekick (who goes the same way as every big black sidekick in TV and film history. Well…this is a Spielberg film) before managing to single-handedly stop the fighting by getting trapped in barbed wire in No-Mans Land and then find its way back to the farmer’s boy who just so happened to be in that particular trench at that particular time.

And they both lived happily ever after.


Before I went into this film I bumped into two different sets of people who I knew in the queue. The first couple asked me if I was looking forward to seeing it, to which I replied that I was concerned it might be over-sentimental, while the other person I met asked if I had tissues at the ready (get your mind out of the gutter).

As it happens I was right and I didn’t need tissues.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s a good film. It flows well in my opinion – even though I’ve heard it said that it starts off too slow – and it has a decent plot and narrative. But it tries far too hard to be emotional and sentimental, and it takes the Seabiscuit (see what I did there…a horse joke) when it comes to levels of plausibility.

I can accept them trying to make a horse ploughing a field into a True Tale of Triumph Over Adversity ™, but I reached my limit at the point where the horse volunteers itself to pull an artillery gun up a hill because its mate had a gammy leg. And that was before the bit on N0-Mans Land that I mentioned above.

It was just too much. And the ridiculous thing was that I could hear people all around me sobbing away like professional mourners while I sat there with an overwhelming sense of incredulity.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not an emotionless son of a gun with a heart of stone, even though I’m sure some of you might by this point think that I am. I appreciate a good tear-jerker, a film to pull at the old heart-strings. I – like every other bloke out there despite what they might have you believe – have shed a tear over a particularly emotion-stirring piece of TV or film, but this was just ridiculous. What are the odds of a horse not only surviving an entire war, but also just so happening to be reunited with his owner mere moments before it was set to be shot between the eyes. That’s not sentimental, that’s ridiculous.

A person I could accept, and if it was a story about a person who went through roughly the same amount of trauma and coincidence I could almost warm to it, but we’re talking about a horse here. A horse. As I say, it was ridiculous and I just couldn’t see past how ridiculous it was to become even slightly emotional about it.

Also, as a side note, it wasn’t remotely surprising that for the most part, the Germans had a ‘Let them die…bwahahahahahaha’ approach to them while the British treated them like their compatriots.

And as another side note, do you think it was deliberate that they chose to have the horses owner – Albert Narracott – played with a Devonshire accent; the accent that throughout the history of British drama has generally been used for simpleton characters? Probably not.

Should You Go And See War Horse?

Despite the fact that it tries far too hard to be sentimental, it clearly worked on a lot of the people in attendance. It was a decent film and one that I’m sure many people will love. But I’m not one of them.

Maybe you have to actively like horses – I can see no way that a horse lover wouldn’t love this film.

You might like it, it’s certainly not bad, but sorry, it didn’t achieve what it set out to with me.

It’s decent. That’s all.


One Response to Film Review: War Horse (or ‘An Overly Sentimental Love Story Between a Young Man and his Unfaithful Horse’)

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