War Horse is an eminently satisfying movie on a lot of levels.
Albert Narracott is an English teenager. His father Ted, a war veteran with a drinking habit and a bad leg, goes to a horse auction to buy a plow horse to work the rocky fields of their farm. But a young thoroughbred horse catches his eye instead and on a foolish whim he bids an exorbitant amount of money on the horse, outbidding his landlord whom he owes back rent. His wife Rose is desperate when she sees him pulling the horse that will never be able to pull a plow up to his farm. But Albert is delighted, names the horse Joey and immediately takes responsibility for him.
This is in 1914 and England enters World War I. Ted, desperate to pay the rent, has to sell the horse and it gets entrusted to a caring English cavalry officer as his personal mount. Albert is devastated and promises Joey, in a last loving embrace, that he will come for him, find him and bring him home.
The horse goes to war, and the story follows the horse. Every person that comes in contact with him is loving and dedicated to him, and somehow the horse, in a small way, changes their lives.
This is a feel-good story for audiences of all ages. The boy and his horse have all the elements of the traditional love story of a human and an extraordinary animal. The imagery of the war and the desperate, hopeless fate of the soldiers fighting it as well as the civilians enduring it illustrates just how devastating, cruel and lethal World War I really was for all involved.
War Horse is a Spielberg movie through and through, bringing together real tragedy, immense suffering, youthful innocence, livelong struggle, class differences, love, pride, dedication and heroic behavior, weaving a complex portrait of a difficult period in human history.
All of it is seen through the life of a War Horse.