At its core, War Horse is an extraordinarily old fashion Hollywood film in tone, style and camera moves (though it uses more hand held than those old films never had). It's basic story of a boy who raises a horse and then must let the horse go into war goes for the heartstrings and does not care that some cynics will see it as nothing more than a adaptation of a children's novel from 1982.
Under the deft hand of Steven Spielberg, who has spent more times directing and producing stories about World War II, now tackles World War I and reminds us the horrible impact of war. While this is no Private Ryan, and we see little or no blood, we do see the waste of war and impact it has on the souls who must die for their country.
Newcomer Jeremy Irvine, all watery-eyed and handsome, does a fine job as Albert who decides to prove that his father's purchase of horse (one he over bid on) can save them from owner of the land he and his parents tend.
Then the film becomes an ensemble, as Joey the horse moves from one owner to another of the four year battle that is World War I. It is here that the film builds its emotional core as we see both German, English and the French falling and taking care of the horse.
For animal lovers, they'll connect to the film, while people who see them not as anything else but animals may find it difficult to understand why one horse means so much to so many.
There is, perhaps, one problem with it. David Thewlis plays the landlord of home in which Albert lives. Thewlis is the "villain" if you will, a heartless business man who sees only money. While I'm certain these type of people existed then as they do now, he was portrayed too much as mustache twirling bad guy. It's distracting and one that could have been toned down had they cast someone of a lesser name perhaps?
Anyways, Spielberg loves these type of stories, understands things about family and sacrifice (though his fairytale endings do get tedious after a while), and knows where and how to set his camera (the English countryside has never been filmed so magnificently). War Horse is a good film, worthy of awards it will be nominated for. It's not Best Picture film, but it is what Hollywood used to make when times were hard in the real world. And despite him not glossing over the hell of war, he does a great job of communicating it without hitting you over the head with it.