Separated by war. Tested by battle. Bound by friendship.
Shortly before World War I, English teenager Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) teaches a young horse, Joey, to plough his father’s fields, but circumstances constantly find new challenges – and companions – for the Thoroughbred. Only a filmmaker like Steven Spielberg could get away with this kind of sentimental fare. Adapted from a novel that was also a successful play, the movie has a less effective midsection, but maintains its grip thanks to deft storytelling; Joey may change owners, but we desperately need to know that this beautiful horse is safe. Vivid combat scenes, but Spielberg finds clever ways to merely suggest the bloodshed; other scenes are visually stunning tributes to John Ford.
2011-U.S. 146 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Screenplay: Richard Curtis, Lee Hall. Novel: Michael Morpurgo. Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski. Music: John Williams. Cast: Jeremy Irvine (Albert Narracott), Peter Mullan (Ted Narracott), Emily Watson (Rose Narracott), Niels Arestrup, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston… Benedict Cumberbatch, David Dencik.
Trivia: The primary horse to play Joey was also Seabiscuit in the 2003 film.
Last word: “I didn’t get in the room with Richard Curtis and say, ‘Okay, we’re going to tell a story that will make men cry.’ I promise you we didn’t do that. The play made me cry. The hope that Joey brings to Albert and brings to every human character in the play – made me cry. I cried because I honestly felt a catharsis. Anytime you have a story where you have characters that are devoted to an animal, and the animal is such an innocent, [it can be emotional]. An animal just exists because it’s the natural thing to do. I think that, you know, we’ve all seen stories like ‘Black Stallion’. We’ve seen stories where there’s more strength in the bonds between an animal and a person than between people. I knew when I saw the play that there was going to be a catharsis for me at the end. But I don’t think the play had the intention of making men cry either. I think the play found a fantastic story based on Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s book, and we simply adapted both the book and the play, and the result is the result.” (Spielberg, ScreenRant)