Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"War Horse" teaches us lessons of appreciation

Since I wrote a blog in November promoting the movie "War Horse," it is only fair that now I write a review.

I had heard a lot about the movie, the screen play before it, and the book by Michael Morpurgo before that.  Here's my take on the movie:

It is the story of a boy and a horse and a war. Yes, sometimes it is hard to watch. But don't you think that the things that are hard to watch or even think about are just the things we should know?

We should know that there were more than 3 million casualties from Great Britain.  The US, in case you are interested, had around 350,000.  If you want to compare stats on WWI, WWII, and Vietnam, here is a link .

We should also know that WWI took the lives of a staggering 800,000 horses. According to, "Such was the use of horses on the Western Front, that over 8 million died on all sides fighting in the war. Two and a half million horses were treated in veterinary hospitals with about two million being sufficiently cured that they could return to duty."

Was it realistic?  The behavior of the horse and the relationship to Albert, in my opinion, was not realistic.  But it made a great story. Many horses have proved to be a "champion" at something for which they were not bred.

There were a few non-horse realistic scenes. According to trivia on IMBd, "Anyone who has been around horses knows that the bridles would be removed at the end of every day." And Joey was trained to respond to Albert the way he did. Most horses just want food. But I think they do remember us and like some of us better than others. 

And Joey, himself, was spectacular. Of course, I mean the main Joey. Fourteen horses played Joey during the movie. The "main" acting horse in the film may have seemed familiar because Finder, also portrayed Seabiscuit in the movie about the famous racehorse. Finders Key, the horse and real star of War Horse was last ridden in a race by actor and professional jockey Kevin Mangold, finishing in 5th place at 77 to 1 odds. (IMDb)

Were any of the horses harmed in the shooting of this film?  No. No. No.  Please check out this article. It is so interesting, and is written specifically about the treatment of the animals on the set. All filming was supervised by Barbara Carr, the American Humane Association Certified Animal Safety Representative. There is also a compelling interview from Director Steven Spielberg on the subject.

The shooting of one of my favorite horse movies, "The Horse Whisperer" (1998) did have a mishap on set. The movie, directed by and starring Robert Redford, (do you hear that?  It's my heart fluttering at the mention of his name.  He still does it for me) had to stop production when the fake blood caused a toxic reaction to the horses' skin. They waited for them to mend and no permanent damage was done.  PS:  There were lots of horse goof ups in this one......blaze one minute, star the next, leg wrapping changing colors and disappearing from scene to scene.

So, In my book "War Horse" is a four out of five. Life lessons are never easy to watch. We should appreciate the sacrifices that all soldiers made in WWI and the role horses tragically played in this victory. If we treat animals with kindness, they will usually pay it back to us. If we got two important lessons, it was worth it. 

This blog is dedicated to my Granddaddy Cathey Spotswood Dandridge, who served in WWI.

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