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Caleb Myers
Caleb Myers

War Horse (2011) [TOP]

Set before and during World War I, it tells of the journey of Joey, a bay Irish Hunter horse raised by British teenager Albert (Irvine), as he is bought by the British Army, leading him to encounter numerous individuals and owners throughout Europe, all the while experiencing the tragedies of the war happening around him. DreamWorks Pictures acquired the film rights to the novel in December 2009, with Spielberg announced to direct the film in May 2010. Having directed many films set during World War II, it was his first film to tackle the events of World War I. Shot in England over 63 days, the production used 5,800 extras and 300 horses. Longtime Spielberg collaborators Kathleen Kennedy, Janusz Kamiński, Michael Kahn, Rick Carter, and John Williams all worked on the film as producer, cinematographer, editor, production designer, and composer, respectively.

War Horse (2011)


In 1912, a bay Irish Hunter is born in Devon, England. At an auction, farmer Ted Narracott outbids his landlord Lyons for the colt, to the dismay of his wife Rose, because the family needs a working horse that can plough the field, not an Irish Hunter. Their son Albert, accompanied by his best friend Andrew, names the colt Joey, and teaches him to come when he imitates an owl's call. The pair form a close bond. Against all odds, the horse and boy successfully plough a rocky field, saving the family's farm.

In 1914, as war with Germany is declared, heavy rain ruins the family's crops, forcing Ted to sell Joey to the army. Albert is heartbroken and tries to stop the sale but is too late. Captain James Nicholls sees Albert's attachment to the horse and promises to look after Joey. Albert tries to enlist but is too young, and before the company departs, he ties his father's pennant to Joey's bridle and promises Joey he will find him.

Joey bonds with Topthorn, a black stallion with whom he is trained for his military role. The horses are deployed to Flanders with a flying column under the command of Nicholls and Major Stewart. They lead a cavalry charge through a German encampment, but the unit is decimated by machine gun fire. Nicholls is killed along with almost all his fellow cavalrymen and the Germans capture the horses.

Gunther, a young German soldier, is assigned to the care of Joey and Topthorn. When his younger brother Michael is sent to the front lines, Gunther takes the horses and the four of them desert. The German army soon tracks down the boys, who are shot for desertion, but the Germans leave without noticing the horses. They are found by a French girl named Emilie the next morning. German soldiers arrive at her grandfather's farm, but Emilie hides the horses in her bedroom. For her birthday, Emilie's grandfather allows her to ride Joey, but they run into the Germans who confiscate the horses. Emilie's grandfather keeps the pennant.

The Germans use Joey and Topthorn to haul artillery, under the care of Private Hengelmann. He cares for them as best as he can, but Topthorn succumbs to exhaustion and dies. Devastated over the loss of an animal he came to care for, Hengelmann rebels against his commanders and is detained, but not before freeing Joey from his reins. Joey escapes, narrowly evading an oncoming tank, and gallops into no man's land, becoming entangled in barbed wire. Colin, a British soldier, makes his way to Joey under a white flag and tries to free him. Peter, a German soldier, comes over with wire cutters, and together they rescue Joey. To decide who should take the horse, they flip a coin, and Colin wins and guides the injured Joey to the British trench. Albert hears about Joey's rescue while recuperating. Just as Joey is about to be put down by a doctor who deems the horse too injured to recover, Joey hears Albert's owl call. Albert, his eyes still bandaged, is able to describe Joey in perfect detail, and the two are reunited. The doctor decides to nurse Joey back to health.

World War I ends, and Joey is ordered to be auctioned because only the horses of officers will return home. Albert's comrades raise a collection to bid for the horse. The auction is won by Emilie's grandfather, who implies that Emilie has died and the horse is all he has left of her. However, after Albert pleads with him, the old man recognizes the strength of the soldier's bond, and returns the pennant and Joey to Albert. Albert returns with Joey to his family's farm, embracing his mother and returning the pennant to his father, who extends his hand to him with pride, as Joey watches.

Michael Morpurgo wrote the 1982 children's novel War Horse after meeting World War I veterans in the Devon village of Iddesleigh where he lived.[8] One had been with the Devon Yeomanry and was involved with horses; Captain Budgett, another veteran in his village, was with the British cavalry and told Morpurgo how he had confided all his hopes and fears to his horse. Both told him of the horrific conditions and loss of life, human and animal, during the Great War.[9] Morpurgo researched the subject further and learned that a million horses died on the British side; he extrapolated an overall figure of 10 million horse deaths on all sides.[10] Of the million horses that were sent abroad from the UK, only 62,000 returned, the rest dying in the war or slaughtered in France for meat.[11] The Great War had a massive and indelible impact on the UK's male population: 886,000 men died, one in eight of those who went to war, and 2% of the entire country's population.[12] After observing a young boy with a stammer forming a fond relationship with and talking fluently to a horse at a farm run by Morpurgo's charity Farms for City Children, Morpurgo found a way to tell the story through the horse and its relations with the various people it meets before and during the course of the war: a young Devon farmboy, a British cavalry officer, a German soldier, and an old Frenchman and his granddaughter.[12][13]

Filming took place under the codename Dartmoor to maintain a level of secrecy during production,[52][57] and took about 64 days in total.[58] Scenes involving the cavalry were shot first at Stratfield Saye House in north Hampshire, the estate of the Duke of Wellington, where incidentally Wellington's war horse Copenhagen is buried; a cavalry charge involving 130 extras was filmed here.[59]

"When I'm on an Indy movie, I'm watching Indiana Jones, not the horse he is riding ... Suddenly I'm faced with the challenge of making a movie where I not only had to watch the horse, I had to compel the audience to watch it along with me. I had to pay attention to what it was doing and understand its feelings. It was a whole new experience for me."

During filming, fourteen different horses were used as the main horse character Joey, eight of them portraying him as an adult animal, four as a colt and two as a foal;[90] four horses played the other main equine character, Topthorn.[89] Up to 280 horses were used in a single scene.[32] A farrier was on set to replace horseshoes sucked off in the mud during filming, and the horses playing the main horse characters had a specialist equine make-up team, with their coats dyed and markings added to ensure continuity. Equine artist Ali Bannister was responsible for the "hair and makeup" of the horses, as well as drawing the sketches of horses that are featured in the film.[94] Extra filming involving a bay foal took place in California in March 2011.[95] Working with horses on this scale was a new experience for Spielberg, who commented: "The horses were an extraordinary experience for me, because several members of my family ride. I was really amazed at how expressive horses are and how much they can show what they're feeling."[96]

Representatives of the American Humane Association were on set at all times, and the Association awarded the film an "outstanding" rating for the care that was taken of the animals during production.[97] However, a 2013 suit by former AHA employee Barbara Casey alleged that a horse was killed on set, but the organization chose to "cover up the death" to protect Spielberg's reputation.[98] An animatronic horse was used for some parts of the scenes where Joey is trapped in barbed wire;[99] the wire was rubber prop wire.[97] Unlike the play, which used puppet horses, the film uses a combination of real horses, animatronic horses and computer-generated imagery.[96][100][95]

John Williams composed and conducted the film's musical score, the second score composed the same year by Williams for Spielberg after The Adventures of Tintin.[106] Williams took inspiration by visiting a horse farm in California and observing horses and their behavior, saying that "I got in the habit of watching the horses in the morning, and I began to see how they connect to each other and how they became curious about me. That's when I really began to get the sense that horses are very special creatures. They have been magnificent and trusted friends for such a long time and have done so much for us with such grace."[107]

"To round out the year, Steven Spielberg's War Horse appears in time for the festive period. If you're thinking that nothing says Christmas like the bloody trench warfare carnage, you may be in luck. But while Spielberg isn't one to sugarcoat the horrors of war, he's just the director to fill this Great War-set story of a boy and his horse with saddlebags of heart and soul. We can't wait to see how he's brought the colossally popular stage play to the big screen."

Conversely, Simon Winder of The Guardian wrote that the film, "despite twisting and turning to be even-handed, simply could not help itself and, like some faux-reformed alcoholic, gorged itself on an entire miniature liqueur selection of Anglo-German clichés".[148] David Denby of The New Yorker wrote that "The horses themselves are magnificent, and maybe that's reason enough to see the movie. But War Horse is a bland, bizarrely unimaginative piece of work".[149] 041b061a72


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