The Reel Deal with Missy & Molly ‘War Horse’: Yea or neigh for an Oscar nomination?

Missy Katner

Lumen Assistant Editor


Molly Grosskreutz

A&E Editor

To sum it up simply, “War Horse” is a story of a boy and his horse. Less simply, a young Brit named Albert and his horse, Joey, form a strong bond on the cusp of WWI. At the outbreak of war, Joey is sold to the cavalry and sent to the front lines. Albert enlists in hopes of reuniting with his beloved horse.

MK: Here’s the gist of it: I didn’t love this movie, but I definitely didn’t hate it either. Just like its young male lead, this movie is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It begs to be loved, patted, and cuddled. To knock a movie this sweet would be like, you know, kicking a puppy. I’m very conflicted, Molly.

MG: I know exactly what you mean, Missy. The first time I saw the trailer for this movie I responded with a sigh and an eye roll, expecting that the film was going to be formulaic and, as you implied, feel-good. Af­ter seeing it, I can confirm that it was indeed both of those things. But it works. Despite its predictable sto­ryline, I was invested in the boy and his horse, and my eyes were con­stantly leaky.

MK: “War Horse” is a Steven Spiel­berg movie through and through. The director must have a soft spot for large-scale “boy and his (fill in the blank)” productions. This isn’t a bad thing. But I thought this type of story was better executed in “E.T.,” or recently, “Super 8.”

MG: While I agree with you, I must say that using the horse as a sto­rytelling maypole was refreshing and appropriate for the time peri­od it represents. It is really easy to make a clichéd war movie, but this one was unique because it offered a completely different perspective from that of a soldier. The film also succeeds in drawing attention to the many animals who suffered in the war efforts as well; animals are so often overlooked and lost to history.

MK: Very true, the animal’s per­spective on war was unique—and pretty heart-breaking. The cinema­tographers pulled out all the stops and the product is stunning. I’m a sucker for the WWI era, and “War Horse” gets the look exactly right. I am astonished when a movie man­ages to make war appear both beau­tiful and demented.

MG: I was planning on mentioning the cinematography as well. There is no question that Spielberg is a trained professional who knows ex­actly what he is doing. Remember the windmill scene? The thought be­hind each shot’s composition is evi­dent, and I found myself immersed by the sprawling, epic shots of rural pre-WWI England. This film is the quintessential modern Hollywood epic.

MK: Indeed, but I have a few prob­lems with the movie. First and foremost is the two and a half hour length. The story lends itself to be an epic, but several portions of this movie dragged on. Why aren’t inter­missions utilized anymore?

MG: That reminds me of “Gone with the Wind.” “War Horse” is similar to “Gone with the Wind” in many ways. I do agree that the film was too long, but at the same time, I feel as though every scene was im­portant and increasingly endeared me to the horse and his boy.

MK: Yes, the sunset scene—defi­nitely a homage to “Gone with the Wind.” I’m still not sure if this movie is intended for children or for adults. “War Horse” had its fair share of “Lassie, come home!” mo­ments, but it also wandered into dark, violent scenes as well. I was as big a fan of Free Willy or Benji as the next kid. Now, I am more interested in human characters than animal ones.

MG: But you’re being a bit ethno­centric and unsympathetic in that regard. Unless you were raised in a bubble with zero contact with animals, it is completely natural to develop relationships with animals, and feel a sense of catharsis through them. I liked Joey’s character better than Albert’s, and I think that trac­ing him as a character was equally as satisfying, if not more so.

MK: I agree wholeheartedly with your statements above. Confession: I am not an animal person. So per­haps it is a testament of this movie’s quality that I liked it at all. What I enjoyed most was the string of side stories about the people who con­nected with Joey during his travels through battle-worn Europe. Those stories, such as the young German brothers who went AWOL, made the film unique.

MG: I appreciated that this movie didn’t try to make it seem as though one side was superior to the other. Joey’s journey as he passes from English to German control to French back to English control shows how interconnected all people are during war. In that way, Joey can be seen as a metaphor.

MK: Awards season is only begin­ning, but “War Horse” already has several nominations. Does it de­serve to win Best Picture? Not in my opinion. I’ve seen other films this year that are made just as well but with more guts. But I recommend seeing this movie if you want an in­nocent and uplifting experience at the theater.

MG: Even if this film doesn’t win an Oscar, to me, this film is an honor­able attempt at restoring the integ­rity of Hollywood. This film is proof that going back to the basics—solid cinematography, convincing props and costuming, and a relatable and believable cast—are recipe enough to create a memorable, noteworthy film, without all of the CGI whosie-whatsit these days (I sound like a crochety old man).

Final Verdict:

MK: Thumbs up.

MG: Thumbs up.

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