Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Boy and His Horse - Spielberg style!

Have you heard of the new movie coming out on Christmas Day? It's called War Horse, and is the newest offering from Steven Spielberg. The movie is based on a children's novel of the same name by Michael Morpurgo, and centers on a young Englishman named Albert and a horse he names Joey. The two have a special bond and when Joey is sold to the army at the beginning of World War I, Albert sets out to find his friend.

I will the leave the professional reviews to, and give you the 'Mom Review' instead. I know that before I take my children to a movie, I am always interested in knowing some details that will help me decide if it is an appropriate movie for them to see. This movie is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of war violence, and I think that it is a well earned rating.

On the good side, we see example of heroism, bravery and courage. Friends who stand beside each other and enemies who learn that sometimes you need to lay down old feuds and work together. We see that even in the midst of the carnage and brutality of war, there is a place for compassion, for keeping promises and stepping out even when common sense would tell you to keep your head down. But I think that the underlying theme which stands out the most is the idea of self-sacrifice. In this day and time, where everything is so "Me" centered, it is very refreshing to see a movie that promotes doing for others, even if it costs you dearly.

Throughout the movie, we see little vignettes of Joey's life from his birth through the end of the war. I want to tell you about them all, but I also don't want to spoil the movie for you, so you are going to have to go see it yourself!

In the "Heads-Up" category, you should know there is a little language. God's name is never taken in vain, and my almost-ten-year-old missed the language altogether (it went right over her head)...she also missed all the war scenes, because I had her close her eyes! I really have to give it to Spielberg though...he was somehow able to portray the intensity of the battles, the horror and brutality of war without us having to see blood spurting or heads flying. For example, (spoiler warning) when two young men are shot for deserting the war, we see the scene in the moonlight, from the top of a windmill which has spinning blades. At the moment that the shots are fired, the blades cross the screen, so we hear the shot, but don't see the young men until after their bodies are on the ground, and again, it is from a distance.

In general, I think that the way the battle scenes in this movie are filmed makes this movie excellent for those studying WWI or WWII, for children who can handle viewing the intensity of battle. You get a good sense of what the trenches were like, what it was like to come up over the wall to charge the enemy positions, what No Man's Land was like, and what is was like behind the lines, where weapons were being moved into position and the dead and wounded were taken. There is a pretty intense scene (again, spoiler warning) where we see that the horses who are captured are forced to move the large artillery into position. It is mentioned that the animals usually only live for one month, and you see a pit where they are "buried", but it is an open pit and there are dead horses lying all around it.

This review feels a little disjointed to me, which I would like to apologize for now...I think that I am having a difficult time meshing the feel-good parts of the movie with the intensity of the war scenes...but I have to tell you that the overall feeling I had on leaving the theater was a happy glow. I know that my kids are not ready for this movie yet, but we will get the book and read it and we will buy the movie when it comes out. It is so good to see a movie like this which handles tough material and is made so well.

Thank you to Homeschool Movie Club, who put out the word on the screening tickets!! You guys rock!