But Nicholls doesn’t have Joey for long. The horse soon finds himself on a farm run by a man (Neils Arstrup) and his goddaughter (Celine Buckens), leaving audiences to wonder when and where Albert might reappear.

One of the problems with War Horse is that we’re meant to identify with the title character and his boy owner, but no sooner have we developed a bond with both than the rug is pulled out, and it’s on to Joey’s next owner. The reason the story follows Joey is, ostensibly, to learn about the people he comes into contact with, but there’s no underlying theme to Joey’s interaction with his human companions. Some of Joey’s owners are tender, some are brave, some see the horse as merely functional. What else would we expect?

Although the film runs too long, it’s never painful to watch, thanks to Kaminski’s grand image-making. Those images include not only stately scenes of Joey on the farm, but harrowing depictions of trench warfare. (While War Horse might hold some appeal for children, a sense of innocence and wonder comes through only in certain scenes, while significant portions of the film depict war violence that includes bombings, shooting and dead soldiers.) The film is respectful toward religion, with men calling on God to protect them during the battle and thanking him when the war has ended.

With so much going for it, War Horse should have been a more gripping experience. As it is, War Horse is not a particularly bad film, just a mediocre one. In light of who brought the story to cinematic life, that counts as a major disappointment.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity: “Bast-rd”; “hell”; “d-mn”; “good Lord”; “bugger me.”
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: A man drinks from a flask; an accusation that a man can’t afford to pay his landlord because he buys beer for his horses; man is said to drink in order to forget the mistakes he’s made.
  • Sex/Nudity: None.
  • Violence/Crime: Man kicked by horse; a gun is cocked; a man threatens another man with knitting needles; warfare includes swords, machine guns, other gunfire, bombs and explosions, with bodies seen flying through the air after bomb impact; a man is shot by a firing squad; orders given to shoot fleeing soldiers; dead soldiers shown; a horse is entangled in barbed wire; a tank runs over a horse.
  • Religion: A character says he used to believe that God gave each man his share of bad luck, but he no longer believes that; a war cry: “Fear God! Honor the king!”; a man says, “God and the king will keep an eye on you”; a man prays the Psalms 23; a man says, “Thank God for the end of this struggle. And victory.”
            

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.