Young Albert played by Jeremy Irvine is a young man living and working on a dying farm. His drunken father is tired of being treated like trash by his landlord(David Thelwis) so he purchases a horse for way too much than he should have spent. Albert connects with the animal on a deep level and names him Joey. When WW1 starts his father sells Joey to the British Calvary. From there we follow Joey as he moves from owner to owner and how bravery plays a role, especially with animals during warfare. What we find is a beautiful and epic tale that reminds us what movies should be.
Steven Spielberg is a master, if you have ever doubted this(After watching the end of War of the Worlds or watching Indian Jones 4) then this movie will restore your faith. It’s very hard to make a film where one of the leads doesn’t speak and is not human. We also connect with multiple characters over the stretch of this movie. It’s visually stunning from beginning to end. The balance here is also perfect where we move from the hills of Devon to the battlefields of WW1. The movie also attacks your heart with the beautiful soundtrack and just a strong message of hope even during the darkest and most violent times. It’s also very hard to make a serious film where we follow an animal. Well it works very well here. I found myself very wrapped up in Joey’s story and this film made me think: “It’s not fair we make animals fight in war, they have no choice”. After thinking that the movie became even better.
Once the movie gets into the war we see how WW1 changed everything. Technology changed how men fought each other. At first calvary charges were the norm and it was about honor and bravery. Then machine guns, tanks, artillery changed all of that and war became a blender where men and animals simply died in epic numbers. The images of the war are important for people to see since that war is fading away in people’s memories.
Joey’s story arch is very impressive. He keeps getting handed off to different owners. First is Captain Nichols who is won over by the connection between Joey and Albert. Sadly though Joey doesn’t stay with him long, a German deserter takes him a one point, then a farmer and his sick granddaughter, to a German soldier who sees the humanity in Joey and his devotion to another horse. Albert eventually joins Joey on the battlefield where they both witness the hell which is trench warfare.
I understand many will try and throw this movie in the mud, it’s high on optimism even during the darkest times. The film basically makes the claim that animals are beyond brave for being forced into these wars and never blinking, which to me is true. This film will make you cry for multiple reasons. It shows you that even during the war that should have ended all wars that humans can still treat each other with respect, that humanity can live on. This film is a masterpiece that no one should skip.