Spielberg and war movies: Band of Brothers, Amistad, Schindler’s List and, of course, Saving Private Ryan. There’s a little bit of magic there. Always with a strong anti-war theme, but recognizing the courage of people in battle alongside the horrors they face.
Still I was wary of Warhorse. I loved animal movies as a child. Benji is particular is one for which I have fond memories. (I wonder how it would hold up?) Plus it was released as a family movie. In my mind that somehow is a red flag.
I needn’t have worried.
The movie is essentially a series of short films. Each centres on the horse, but each also shows the triumphs and failings of people. The horse is always stalwart and strong. The people are by turns courageous and cowardly. Kind and cruel. Three times the film evokes the passion from Saving Private Ryan. Twice during a charge across no man’s – once by people and once by the horse. The third time is a moment of quiet reflection and cooperation inspired by the horse’s bravery.
Not all the scenes are as successful, but none are failures. I’m least satisfied with the film’s ending. Although I don’t have a better in mind.
We had a discussion the other night about the horrible things people do to each other in movies. Some movies contain people whose pretty face conceals a character of malignant cowardice. Warhorse certainly has horrible things (though no gore). But the pretty faces don’t conceal – they reveal. And in general they reveal courage.
That sure ain’t all bad.