Whether you like him or not, you have to envy Steven Spielberg because, despite his many years of top movie making, he's never lost touch with our inner child.
There was unusual applause at the end of the showing we attended. There couldn't have been a dry eye in the house, and the lumps in our throats were big enough to, well, choke a horse.
Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and the new digital technology deserve a lot of credit for one of the most breathtaking films seen recently. Don't be put off by the obvious plot of "boy meets horse, boy loses horses, boy gets horse back," because there's a lot more to this film. It would be difficult to find any war movie that conveys the terror, the shame, and the pain of modern warfare better.
The horse ties together an epic story of ordinary English people, French, and the Germans caught up in the awful disaster of war. Each of the subplots would have made a decent regular length movie, but stitched together they make a great tapestry of war and misery.
One might expect a horse movie that takes place in World War One to pontificate a bit about how mechanization and modern weapons replaced whatever people might have thought was romantic about heroic equestrians charging toward the enemy. One couldn't anticipate, however, the full effect that Spielberg blasts us with without a single word of excuse or explanation. "War Horse" is simply a terrific war movie that makes its statements graphically and through sensitive portrayals, whether in actual battle scenes or not.
Even though it was filmed in England, the last frame shows the IATSE (American stagehands union) union bug.