01/03/2012 04:40 pm ET Updated Mar 04, 2012

War Horse Retains the Spielberg Magic

Stephen Spielberg works his magic one more time in a beautifully crafted movie titled War Horse. This tale of a horse and its experiences during World War I make for an emotional journey and also a rewarding one. Spielberg always brings magic in his directorial touch and in this production enhances it with the musical greatness of a John Williams score and the superb artistry of Janusz Kaminski's cinematography.

The focus at the beginning of the film is on a boy named Albert (Jeremy Levine) who lives with his parents on their leased farm. The father (Peter Mullan) tends to drink too much and this makes their ability to pay the lease tenuous. The mother (Emily Watson) is astounded when her husband buys a thoroughbred horse when what they need is a working horse. Albert, however, swears he will teach the horse, which he names Joey, how to pull a plow.

A few months after they have bought the horse, the father sells him to the military to do duty in the war. Albert is heartbroken and promises Joey he will find him and bring him home. To try to keep his promise he enlists in the military as soon as he is of age.

The movie now moves to Joey's story as he goes from working with the British to being forced to work for the Germans. Each episode he faces gets him more and more embroiled in the cruelties of World War I. Spielberg does not shy away from showing the horrors of war or the cruelty it imposes on men and animals.

The movie is rated PG-13 for mild profanity and wartime violence. This is not a movie suitable for those who cannot tolerate cruelty to animals; nor for people who do not enjoy emotional films. Joey's journey is a terrible one and it will reach out to your emotions at every turn.

The acting in the movie is excellent. Irvine is perfectly cast as the boy who loves his horse. Mullan and Watson are outstanding as Jeremy's parents. Tom Hiddleston is noble and gentle as the soldier who takes Joey to war, and Niels Arestrup is courageous as a grandfather who watches Joey change the life of his granddaughter.

There are numerous characters and stories in the movie and all are entertaining and appealing. But in each case Joey is the center of the story they create. The horse is the heart and soul of the film and the one you remember most from the story.

Stephen Spielberg has created another movie for the ages in War Horse. It is grand in the tradition of all of his great movies, and is one of the best films of 2011.

I scored War Horse an equine 8 out of 10.