Opinions on the film
What can one say about a film that is likely to make an impact on people that aren't even horse lovers? I for one even began feeling tearful when I watched the trailer so I wont even mention how many tissues I used during the actual film!!!
Adapted from the book for children by Michael Morpurgo, and also from the London stage version Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks have really hit on a good one. Along with the actors Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup and Tom Hiddleston, the film has already 6 nominations for the oscars.
The story relates the story of a superbly intelligent horse called Joey who is trained with loving kindness by a young boy called Albert. Albert's father who once was a strong man, has succumbed to drink due to the pressures of trying to earn a living in order to keep on paying the rent on the cottage in Devon where he and his family live. But he can't work the hard soil of the land in order to grow any kind of crop and so In an act of desperation he ends up paying 30 guineas for Joey in a horse auction. This is way too much for a horse that has not even been broken in and having even less the qualities of a horse that could plough.
It is then that Albert steps in and trains the horse to do everything that is needed of him and more. Joey ends up harnessed to plough the land and show immense strength and loyalty to the ones that he loves.
But when World War One steps in and Albert's father finds that he still has problems in being able to earn some sort of income he is forced to take Joey to the market and sell him to the troops that are about to set off for war. This of course breaks Albert's heart and he vows to join the war himself as soon as he is of age so that he can search for Joey.
It has to be said now that the film, although principally aimed at children, is quite violent at times. The war scenes are horrific showing hundreds of dead horses strewn across the countryside (although it is a true fact that millions of horses did indeed die during the first world war). The sounds of bombs and rifle shots are loud and shocking and the scene of Joey galloping through 'No man's land' amid all the bombing while he crashes into one fence after another of barbed wire until he is finally entangled and helpless is really distressing and am not too sure whether this is okay for children to watch.
The story mainly concentrates on the ordeals of Joey in the war but at the same time it also touches on the human side. We are shown how when Joey is caught up in the barbed wire and the English troops raise up the white flag in order to be able to go and release him, that a German officer also comes out to help offering a pair of wire cutters. This was a very poignant part of the film showing how there are times, even during war, that people can forget their differences and join themselves into a good cause.
Albert gets to go to war but during one of the bombings his eyes are affected and he is left blind for a while. He is in the infirmary recovering when he hears the news of an extraordinary horse who has managed to gallop right through the nightmare of 'No Man's land' and still be alive. The doctor refuses to treat the severe injuries of this horse and it is decided that he should be shot. Albert after hearing the news suddenly has a seventh sense and decides to whistle his special whistle that he had for Joey. Joey acknowledges the whistle and as Albert walks blindly towards Joey continuing with his whistle we can see how the two have recognized the other. The greeting between the two is more cause for tears from the audience and the doctor is moved enough to change his decision and save the horse.
The end of the war arrives but it is announced that Albert cannot retrieve Joey as all the surviving horses are to be auctioned to the highest bidder. Everyone in Albert's troop decide to make a pool in order to give Albert enough money to buy Joey back and he nearly succeeds until the grandfather of a young girl called Emily who died in the war but who had spent some time with Joey when he was in France, ends up bidding far above the odds.
We are led to believe that the grandfather of Emily will take the horse away but when Joey suddenly rears up and runs backs to Albert, Emily's grandfather realizes that there is a bond so strong there that not even for the memory of his grand-daughter should this be broken and he hands Joey back to Albert.
The end of the film is along the lines of 'Gone with the Wind' in that we saw Albert riding Joey back to his family home as a silhouette against a red sky line where he rejoins with his parents.
It has to be said that this is a good film but am not so sure whether it will end up getting all the six nominations as there was something lacking. When talking about horse films and comparing it to 'The Horse whisperer' it doesn't have the magic of 'The Horse whisperer'. My final remark is that the reason for this could be that Steven Spielberg didn't really have any knowledge about horses until he made this film?