War Horse (2011)

 ●  English ● 2 hrs 26 mins

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This masterfully crafted drama is an inspiring tale of love, devotion, patriotism, loyalty and sacrifice, set against the tumultuous backdrop of World War I. The Narracott family are deeply impoverished, struggling to even feed themselves and their young son, while the wealthy seek to exploit them. Ted is an alcoholic, and to everyone's dismay, he buys a thoroughbred horse rather than a plough animal that would be better suited for his family's farm in requirements, but when his teenaged son Albert trains the horse and calls him Joey, the two becoming inseparable. Despite incredibly hard work, when his harvest fails, the farmer has to sell Joey to the British cavalry and he is shipped to France where, after a disastrous offensive he is captured by the Germans and changes hands twice more before he is found, caught in the barbed wire in No Man's Land four years later and freed. He is returned behind British lines where Albert, now a private, has been temporarily blinded by gas, but still recognizes his beloved Joey. However, as the Armistice is declared Joey is set to be auctioned off. After all they have been through, will Albert and Joey return home together?
See Storyline (May Contain Spoilers)

Cast: Emily Watson, Jeremy Irvine

Crew: Steven Spielberg (Director), Janusz Kaminski (Director of Photography), John Williams (Music Director)

Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, History, War

Release Dates: 10 Feb 2012 (India), 25 Dec 2011 (United States)

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Did you know? The author of the source book, Michael Morpurgo is seen in a cameo appearance, standing next to David Thewlis during the auction scene at the beginning of the movie. Morpugo's wife Clare is also seen in the film. Read More
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as Rose Narracott
as Albert Narracott
as Maj. Jamie Stewart
as Base Camp Officer
as Lyons
as Sgt. Fry
as Si Easton
as Sgt. Sam Perkins
as Infantry Recruitment Officer
as Army Doctor
as German Artillery Soldier
as Junior German Officer
as British Trench Solder #1
as Friedrich
as Lt. Charlie Waverly
as Ted Narracott
as French Auctioneer
as Maj. Tompkins
as Brandt
as David Lyons
as Shouting German Officer
as Geordie Soldier
as Capt. Nicholls






Screenplay Writer

Camera and Electrical

Director of Photography


Music Director


Sound Effects Editor
Sound Re-recording Mixer


Art Director
Production Designer
Set Decorator


Casting Director

Costume and Wardrobe

Costume Designer



Makeup and Hair

Film Type:
Colour Info:
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
2.39:1 (Scope)
Factual Mistake
In the trenches scenes the British troops shoulder badges say Dorset but they refer to themselves as Devon boys during the assault on the machine gun nest. There were different regiments from each neighboring county until the Devon and Dorset regiments were merged until the 1957 defense review.

Factual Mistake
The young German deserter is named Michael. His named is pronounced the way an American/Englishman would pronounce it (with a k sound). A German would pronounce it with the a "ch" sound, which is an unvoiced soft aspirative sound not found in English. (Comparable to the Scottish sound "ch" i.e. in "Loch".)

Factual Mistake
After the horses pull the heavy gun to the top of the hill, the gun crew loading the gun only place the projectile in before firing - in reality, the shell would have to be followed by at least one powder charge to propel it. Large caliber artillery pieces and naval guns load the projectile/shell and the propellant separately; smaller ones have them assembled as a cartridge, similar to what a rifle, machine gun or handgun fires.

Factual Mistake
Baby Joey has a very small head marking. Foals are born with large head markings which shrink as they grow older, they do not grow with the horse.

Factual Mistake
The Household Cavalry was engaged at Zandvoorde, but in a defensive role. No dramatic charge took place. Also the 10th German Infantry Division was located in Lorraine at the time, not near Ypres.

Errors in Geography
The early stages are set in Devon, UK but the village houses are all of Cotswold stone, not usually found in Devon.

The German Army camp is on an open field in enemy territory without any sentries, with around a dozen machine guns forming a defensive line at least 100 yards away from the camp, with nobody guarding these machine guns and with the camp right in the middle of the firing line of the machine guns.

Towards the end of the film, when the grandfather, who has outbid Albert at the auction for Joey, informs him that he has travelled three days to get the horse back, how did he know that the horse was going to be auctioned? Albert only found out the day before.

Revealing Mistakes
Anyone who has been around horses knows that the bridles would be removed at the end of every day.

Revealing Mistakes
When the German machine gunners reach their guns, they open fire without elevating their guns thus spraying bullets at around 1 to 2 feet above ground. However dozens of horses manage to come through this hail of bullets unharmed, while their riders sitting at least 5 feet above the ground die in scores.

Revealing Mistakes
In France, the windmill with damaged sails continues to turn at a steady rate despite smoke hanging in the air, showing there is no wind.

Before leaving for France Major Stewart gives the order for battle; there is to be no polish so that a glinting bridle or stirrup would not give away their position. In the scenes set in France all the metal on the horse's bridles is freshly polished.

When the cavalry charge through the grass towards the Germans you can see they are running in trails previously made. When they burst into the open you can see how the grass has been flattened by a previous charge.

Practice Cavalry charge scene: The adult horse Joey can be seen just prior to the practice cavalry charge with a white mark in its hair above its right eye. During the charge there is a close up of Joey's face and the white mark is absent. The color of this horse is also a slightly darker chestnut to that of the horse at the end of the charge. Subsequent shots through the film do not show this white mark and especially the shots of the young horse the mark is also absent.

When Albert is trying to befriend Joey with an apple which he is holding out at arm's length, the apple is whole. There is a short cut as Joey looks back at his mother and when we see the apple again, it has a big bite taken out of it. But Albert has not moved.

When the younger Schroeder brother, Michael, is entering the lines to march to the front, he enters the left line (walking direction). His brother, Gunther is packing the horse and follows to get him out of line. At that moment Michael has switched line and walks in the right line of the column.

Audio/Video Mismatch
When Lt. Waverly and Captain Nicholls are discussing the new caps, Nicholls says "...I fancy that cap. I'll kill you first of all." The shot changes to show Waverly's reaction. Here, Nicholls's jaw can be seen moving as if he's speaking, but nothing is spoken.

The motorcycle the German soldiers are shown riding is a Triumph SD, an English model introduced in 1920.

The horse is shown galloping in a trench and never having to turn, suggesting the trench is long and straight. In reality, trenches were built with zig-zags so if the enemy got in, it couldn't shoot down the trench and easily hit someone.
This was the first movie with a horse as its central character, to be nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award Oscar in eight years. Seabiscuit (2003) was the last.

Production filming took place under the code-name 'Dartmoor'. Dartmoor is the location in Devon where the film was predominantly shot.

This is the second time David Thewlis has acted in a movie whose star was a horse. The other was Black Beauty (1994).

The granddaughter of Captain Budgett, one of the World War I veterans who had inspired Michael Morpurgo to write the original story, appeared as an extra in the movie.

Emily Watson also starred in the similarly named The Water Horse (2007). In both films she played the mother of the title animal's human guardian during a World War (in "War Horse" the First, in "The Water Horse" the Second).

This movie is based on both a children's novel of the same name set during World War I, by Michael Morpurgo, first published in the United Kingdom in 1982, and the 2007 stage adaptation, also of the same name.

Robert Emms, who had played the lead role of Albert Narracott in the West End stage production of the play, was cast in this film in a different part, as David Lyons.

The tank created for this movie is now an exhibit in a bona fide tank museum in Dorset, England, among real tanks including those from the first world war.

Prior to principal photography, a number of actors did about two months of intensive horse training.

This Steven Spielberg film was released in the same year as another Spielberg movie, The Adventures of Tintin (2011) and both were Oscar nominated. But the film represents another double Spielberg losing year at the Oscars. This movie received six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture whilst The Adventures of Tintin (2011) got one nomination. Both films failed to win an Oscar. In 2006, Spielberg also had two movies Oscar nominated, Munich (2005) and War of the Worlds (2005). Both those two films also failed to win an Oscar that year. Spielberg had a double Oscar winning year in 1994 with Schindler's List (1993) (won 7 Oscars) and Jurassic Park (1993) (won 3 Oscars).

Author Michael Morpurgo's original story evolved from a chance meeting with three surviving WW1 soldiers at his local bar in Iddesleigh, Devon, Morpurgo's English hometown. After a number of meetings with the former members of the Devon yeomanry, and consultations with the Imperial War Museums (IWM), Morpurgo was able to structure a story based on the experiences of the veterans and their poignant accounts of, not just human slaughter on the battlefield, but also the wholesale carnage and starvation of horses.

This was Steven Spielberg's first film to be edited digitally. He has famously held onto editing traditionally; his editor, Michael Kahn, has edited nearly all of Spielberg's films on a Moviola.

Finders Key, the horse and real star of this movie was last ridden in a race by actor and professional jockey Kevin Mangold, finishing in 5th place at 77 to 1 odds.

This movie utilized about 5800 extras and background artists.

Jeremy Irvine (Albert Naracott) contracted trench foot when filming the war scenes of the movie.

Eddie Redmayne was rumored to be cast in the lead role of Albert Narracott that went to Jeremy Irvine.

When Joey is trapped in barbed wire, the wire used was rubber prop wire when a real horse was used. Part of the filming of this sequence utilized an animatronic horse.

This movie marks the debut of Jeremy Irvine, a British actor who plays the lead role, and has since become one of Hollywood's fastest rising stars. He had never ridden horses prior to being cast in this epic war drama.

After this movie became Steven Spielberg and Michael Kahn's first film together edited digitally, the two swore off digital editing once again in favor of analog flatbed editing, stating that digital editing rushed their creative process too much.

Steven Spielberg stated that the only digital effects used in the movie were three shots that lasted three seconds, and was done to ensure the safety of the horse involved. Spielberg was quoted as saying "That's the thing I'm most proud of. Everything you see on screen really happened."

Janusz Kaminski has stated that he used John Fords The Searchers (1956) as a template for his exterior filming, paying particular attention to Ford's panoramic sky, landscape and terrain.

Fourteen horses played Joey during the movie. The "main" acting horse in the film, Finder, also portrayed Seabiscuit (2003) in the movie about the famous racehorse. Finder's two famous roles, Seabiscuit and Joey, were very similar. Both were remarkable mainly in their bravery and determination to overcome insurmountable odds they never should have been able to, considering what kind of horse they were.

Specially designed mud was used in this movie, in order to make the battle scenes look authentically filthy.

The author of the source book, Michael Morpurgo is seen in a cameo appearance, standing next to David Thewlis during the auction scene at the beginning of the movie. Morpugo's wife Clare is also seen in the film.