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Wigge Reviews: War Horse

I have learned that certain animals have heart and nobility beyond description.

We know stories of great, noble horses — Pharlap, Sea Biscuit, Secretariat — whose heart and courage had no bounds. Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” precisely captures this same message.

It is a beautiful, touching, and wonderfully staged film of indomitable spirit captured in the absolute worst of times.

“War Horse” begins with an English farmer in 1914 who needs a work horse. The farmer improbably buys a young thoroughbred, so taken is he with the beauty and spirit of this stallion. The paradox is critical to the story — this beautiful horse (Joey) is repeatedly thrust into events that challenge his spirit and endurance.

He is not built for plowing, but if plowing means saving the farm, he lowers his head and plows.

World War I breaks out and Joey must go to the cavalry. What then unfolds is the great unholy drama on the continent over the next four years. Joey is party to all that breaks men’s souls in the course of war. We see that there is no more cavalry, no more well-groomed horses, and horses must work as part of everyone’s survival.

We find Joey pressed back and forth between sides, climaxed by several nearly unwatchable, heart-wrenching scenes.

This might have been a sentimental mush of a movie, yet it is anything but that. Joey is a mirror of the want — or the lack — of humanity in times of war, pain, mud, and suffering.

All that Joey must do, he does with courage and strength which Spielberg effectively captures with love and respect as an objective observer of a great animal. In the end, we know that he is gallant and brave, a noble horse.

Jim Wigge is a Cazenovia resident and film-aficionado. After retiring from his career as an engineer, he has been reviewing movies for the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached through the editor, at editor@cazenoviarepublican.com.

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