Just saw it yesterday. I expected it to be like "Secretariat", or "Sea Biscuit," so DD and I took kleenex--ya know, for "Niagara Falls".) Instead Speilberg gave us "Horse Fantasy Land" and World War I "Fantasy Island."
There was literally no montage to show how long it took for "Albert to train "Joey" (the title and main character) to get him gentled, trained to saddle and willing to plow the rock-filled bottom-land. The script indicated one month of training. When the army bought him Joey was trained to a saber and tilting for a brass ring just by racing towards it. Not at ALL bothered by a scabbard at his side, or the noises, or the "dress to the next horse,"... His BFF was this black horse. They settled dominance in about...2 minutes, with no fighting, then they were biffles, 'til death do them part.
Instead of a heartwarming scene, Speilberg had Joey running, scared to death by a tank--I'm pretty sure he'd seen them before--through "no man's land", littered with barbed wire. We, the audience, get to cringe as he smashes through 2 barbed wire fences, only to be tangled up by the 3rd fence. When the British and German soldiers cut the wires, he only has one--yes, one small gash on the RF leg.
As a drama the story draaaaagggggsss. We don't get to see enough of the little French girl, "Emilie." She hides the 2 horses upstairs in her bedroom to keep the German army from retrieving them, only the ride over the hill to the next property...where they are obviously encamped--couldn't she hear them...? jmho about this character...
YES, WWI was muddy and dangerous--significant use of barbed wire and mustard gas. It was THIS war that F. Scott Fitgerald wrote about and THIS war that turned the US isolationist. I don't think that the British Cavalry would have ridden into the woods chasing after the German encampment. Their officers were trained to previous war tactics--they were NOT that dumb!
Several times in the story the writers resist the obvious, which is when the two horses change sides, they WOULD HAVE BECOME officers mounts and NOT relegated to pulling an ambulence or killing themselves pulling a 2-ton gun up to the top of a ridge. (We are told that this uses the horses up like kleenex. I guess the kleenex in my hand made some sense at this point in the movie.)
At the end of the war after (again, miraculous Fantasy Island) Albert calls him with his special bird call (5 times!!!!--twice, then the injured horse should have hobbled over to him--overly dramatic) and the horse, who is going to be shot bc of the scant barbed wire injuries--"Tetanus, you know"--goes racing off to Albert, the Army won't let his officer purchase him and give Joey to Albert. Good gracious.........the MINUTE the war was over everything became surplus!!!!!
Even the ending, Albert aboard Joey walking and trotting up to the family (rented) farm at sunset, the reunion is forced, and the only one with any class is the horse who played "Joey".
BTW, "Joey" is described as a TB several times. I guess our friends in the UK can place the breed--I'm guessing "Cleveland Bay" bc of the build--but the head and ribs are not TB.
One more thing--my daughter is disgusted how Hollywood likes to make EVERY ANIMAL into dogs. The ONLY animal that loves and dies for you is your dog. I KNOW that my Arab liked me but he would NEVER have mourned for me after my death, like my dogs would. Just sharing.....