STEVEN SPIELBERG: Hello, everybody, and more specifically Academy voters. This is my new movie, War Horse. It is about a horse. Also there is war. I am pretty sure that these two things combined are good for at least half a dozen Oscars.
ALBERT: Boy, look at that baby horse! I bet that is a special horse.
HORSE: (whinnies, does horsey things)
ALBERT: One day, I will own that horse, for we have a special bond. He is the specialest horse ever.
HORSE: (neigh, neigh, stamps foot)
Eventually the horse comes to be sold at a HORSE AUCTION. The horse is very distressed to be separated from its mommy horse. This is is a metaphor for the BRUTALITY OF WAR, which takes away the young from their loving parents.
ALBERT’S FATHER: Oh, look at that landlord. He thinks he’s better than me because he’s rich and dresses well and isn’t a slobbering drunk and speaks without excessive unnecessary spitting. How I hate him!
LANDLORD: I want to buy that horse! Ten guineas!
ALBERT’S FATHER: ELEVENTY BILLION GUINEAS!
ONLOOKER: Wait, didn’t you come here to buy a plough horse? This horse – while clearly a very special horse, as any man can see – isn’t a plough horse.
ALBERT’S FATHER: Ah, but I have stuck it to that rich landlord that I hate because I pay him rent!
AUDIENCE: Is it possible to get that drunk?
STEVEN SPIELBERG: Excuse me, but I was one of the Hollywood young guns of the 1970s, and I was the one who basically stayed sober while everybody else got shitfaced on everything. You’ll note I still have a career, while Francis Ford Coppola makes a lot of wine and complains about the system. There are reasons for this. I’m just saying.
ALBERT’S MOTHER: Oh, you idiot, you bought a fancy horse – granted, a very special horse, that’s obvious – instead of a plough horse. How are we going to plough the fields now?
ALBERT: I’ll plough the fields with him, mother! For he is the most wonderful horse in the world! I’ll train him to be a super-horse, for we have a special bond, and now, as I knew one day that I would, we are horse and master.
ALBERT’S MOTHER: But you had absolutely nothing to do with buying this horse.
ALBERT: It still counts.
Albert TRAINS THE HORSE. He comes up with a unique whistle to summon the horse. Albert’s best friend GEORDIE watches, all the while wearing a T-shirt that says I AM HERE FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN TO EVENTUALLY DIE IN WAR. Eventually the Landlord shows up again with his young son, who we know is evil because he sneers a bit.
LANDLORD: So… you owe me money.
ALBERT’S FATHER: We’ll get you the money.
LANDLORD: Yes, eventually, I suppose, but you owe me the money right now, and it’s not because of some horrible disaster that you owe me money. It’s because you spent far too much money on a horse you didn’t need.
STEVEN SPIELBERG: Um, audience? He’s evil. You should boo him. Look at his son’s face! Evil!
AUDIENCE: Well, yes, but he’s got kind of a point, doesn’t he?
ALBERT’S FATHER: We’ll plow the rocky field with all the rocks. We’ll plant turnips there.
LANDLORD: Well, I can give you until October, I guess. But if you don’t pay up then I’ll have to evict you.
STEVEN SPIELBERG: You’re not booing, audience!
AUDIENCE: Yeah, well… we were of the understanding that there was going to be war. Are we going to get to the war soon?
STEVEN SPIELBERG: Patience. Also you should be booing him now.
AUDIENCE: He just gave them a six-month extension. Why would we boo him for that?
ALBERT: No worries! I’ll teach the horse to plow! For he is the specialest horse in the world!
Albert tries to teach the War Horse to plow. The War Horse is not good at this.
ALBERT’S FATHER: I am a self-destructive drunk and will shoot this horse!
ALBERT’S MOTHER: You can’t shoot the horse!
ALBERT: He is the specialest horse in the world and you will have to shoot me first!
Albert’s father BREAKS DOWN CRYING. Later Albert’s mother explains to Albert that his father was in the Boer War and that although he was a war hero, he also has post-traumatic stress syndrome, which makes him depressed and a drunk, and also causes him to spend money on horses he cannot afford. Albert decides to plow the field even though the War Horse is not properly trained.
ALBERT: Okay, horse! Let’s plow this field!
HORSE: (does not plow the field)
RURAL ENGLISH come to watch Albert plow the rocky field and laugh at him, because this is Olden Times and they did not have television then. Even though they are all aware that Albert’s family needs to plow this field in order to survive, none of them offer to help, since all English people are apparently DICKHEADS.
ALBERT: Horse! I am calling on our special bond here!
It begins to RAIN HEAVILY.
ALBERT: We can do it, horse! You and me! Mostly you, but I’m helping!
HORSE: (neighs in a determined manner)
ALBERT’S MOTHER: Look! They’re plowing the rocky field!
LANDLORD: And to think, all it took was rain to loosen up the dirt!
AUDIENCE: When do we get to the war part?
STEVEN SPIELBERG: It’s coming. We have to set stuff up first.
To celebrate, Albert goes RIDING on War Horse. He races the LANDLORD’S EVIL SON because the son is driving a car with a pretty girl, who of course is all about Albert and his horse because girls love horses. Then War Horse refuses to jump a stone wall and the evil son laughs at him.
ALBERT: I hope this pays off somehow later. Because ow.
MOTORCYCLE PERSON: Hello, rural England! We are now entering World War One! To commemorate this, the next time the bells ring will be the last time until the war ends!
Then it RAINS VERY HARD and the family’s turnip crop is ruined. They look grimly at one another, and Albert’s father takes War Horse to be sold to the army. War Horse is bought by the guy who played LOKI IN THE THOR MOVIE.
ALBERT: No! You can’t take my horse from me! We have a special bond!
LOKI: I can see you and this horse have a special bond. Look, I’ll just borrow this horse from you, all right? I’ll return him at the end of the war. After all, it’s clear that this is a truly wonderful horse. God, would I love to fuck it.
ALBERT: …wait, what?
LOKI: Just pretend I didn’t say that last bit while I make sex-eyes at your horse.
ALBERT: No! I volunteer for Army! I’m old enough! Well, no, I’m not, but even though I’m underage I can fight any ten German soldiers so long as I’m with my horse!
LOKI: I’m sorry, but the Army has standards and we don’t let in young men who admit they’re underage. Granted, you could have just kept on lying and claimed you were of age and I couldn’t have done anything about that, but then we would have had to deal with the inconvenient fact that you’re a commoner and therefore wouldn’t be able to ride your horse anyways. So it’s probably for the best that you have stupidly allowed me to separate you from your sexy, sexy horse, which I promise to return to you.
ALBERT: But what if you die?
LOKI: Excuse me, but I am a noble Englishman in a war film. Do you really think I’m going to die? Excuse me, audience, what are you doing?
AUDIENCE: We’re starting a pool on how many more minutes you live.
LOKI: Ah. Well. Carry on, then.
The War Horse goes to Army Horse Camp, where he trains alongside a big black horse owned by BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, who demonstrates that when he has short hair and a moustache, he looks staggeringly like DOCTOR STRANGE. During a practice charge, War Horse beats Benedict Cumberbatch’s horse quite easily.
SOME ENGLISH OFFICER: Well, it looks like we’re going to beat up those Germans awfully good, eh what? I do hope our exuberance in training doesn’t wind up being terribly ironic!
LOKI: I’m sure that there’s not going to be any irony in this war. After all, what’s ironic about warfare? Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to write a letter to Albert, and enclose in that letter all of these erotic pictures I have drawn of his horse.
The English cavalry goes to war. They charge a German camp with their sabres drawn and hack up the Germans quite well, until they find out the Germans have MACHINE GUNS. The Germans kill Loki and most of the British cavalry, although they all die offscreen. Benedict Cumberbatch, his horse, War Horse, and the Ironic English Officer survive.
A GERMAN: Oh, Benedict Cumberbatch! Didn’t you realize that cavalry does not work against machine guns? You stupid English! You are being defeated by progress!
Benedict Cumberbatch THROWS DOWN HIS SABRE ANGRILY and surrenders. His horse and the War Horse are taken away by the Germans to drive an ambulance, because the War Horse knows how to accept a horse collar due to his plowing experience, and he talks to Benedict Cumberhorse in horse language and explains that Cumberhorse must also wear a horse collar.
A YOUNG GERMAN NAMED GUNTER: Boy, whoever taught you to wear a collar must have saved your life! Ironic, is it not, that knowledge of peaceful activities would save you in war? Oh my, but you are clearly a special horse who has been touched by destiny.
MEANWHILE, back in England, Albert receives Loki’s letter and his belongings, and finds out that he is dead. He is sad, because this means War Horse is probably dead as well. He mourns War Horse. Back in Germany, the war continues.
A GERMAN OFFICER: Well, all of you except Gunter are going up to the front lines, where you will probably die. Good for you, Gunter! Your knowledge of horses will save your life!
GUNTER: But my little brother is going up to the front lines!
GUNTER’S BROTHER: There’s nothing for it, Gunter.
GUNTER: But you’re fourteen! You lied to come to war!
GUNTER’S BROTHER: Sadly, there is nothing we can do.
GUNTER: We could just tell them you’re underage and they’ll have to send you home!
GUNTER’S BROTHER: That wouldn’t work, for reasons we will not state.
Gunter’s brother leaves with the marching German army. Gunter steals War Horse and Cumberhorse and rides up to the column, grabs his brother, and they ride off.
A GERMAN SOLDIER: Shouldn’t we do something about that?
ANOTHER GERMAN SOLDIER: If we did anything, then who would track them down later for a dark, emotional execution sequence?
GUNTER: Wait the what now?
Gunter and his brother flee to a windmill, where they hide the horses inside the windmill. They talk like young boys about the women in Italy, underscoring the fact that they are YOUNG BOYS and they will DIE IN WAR. Then the Germans find them and execute them in a manner so that the audience cannot see them being shot, but for some reason they leave the horses behind even though in order to find Gunter and his brother, they would have had to walk right past the horses. The next morning, a YOUNG GIRL finds the horses in the windmill.
EMILY: Look! Grandpa! Horses! And clearly this one in particular is very special! Not the big black one, the other one.
GRANDPA: Very well and good, but I do not want you riding those horses – not even the one who is clearly a very special and important horse – for you are sickly, as evidenced by this green medicinal liquid I make you take.
EMILY: What do I have?
GRANDPA: A bad case of moviegitis. It is invariably fatal, although you will only die once you are offscreen or, in some cases, when you present a final, touching monologue.
The GERMANS arrive to ransack the farm. Emily hides the horses in her bedroom on the second floor. The movie does not explain how she manages to do this.
GERMAN OFFICER: Take everything we need. This farmer is doing his part for the war.
GRANDPA: Excuse me, but I am clearly French and you are German. Your appeal to patriotism isn’t even ironic. It’s just stupid.
GERMAN OFFICER: You forget that I am a bit of a dickhead, yes?
GERMAN SOLDIER: What is this?
GRANDPA: If you don’t know what it is, you don’t need it.
GERMAN SOLDIER: Er, it’s pretty obviously a pot. I was more asking what you used it for, you see.
GRANDPA: Oh. That makes sense.
The Germans LEAVE. Emily starts begging to be allowed to ride the horses. Eventually Grandpa relents and goes and fetches her dead mother’s saddle from the barn.
GRANDPA: Now, be careful when you ride, Emily, for you are sickly. Ride very slowly, and do not go over the hill.
Emily of course rides quickly over the hill. Grandpa follows her, and sees that the GERMANS are taking War Horse from her. They also take Cumberhorse.
GRANDPA: In retrospect maybe we should have waited until the front line wasn’t literally in our backyard in order to ride the horses.
A FAT GERMAN is in charge of the horses.
FAT GERMAN: I do so love horses. It is a shame that they have to be involved in war, which is dehumanizing. Are you listening, audience?
AUDIENCE: Sort of.
War Horse and Cumberhorse are drafted to pull big heavy artillery pieces up hills. They do this. We then cut to the BRITISH TRENCHES, where Albert has since become a soldier, along with Geordie and the Landlord’s Evil Son.
SOLDIER: All right, we’re going over the top in a bit, so everybody who wants to put their valuables here for safekeeping, do so.
ALBERT: I could put in my prized drawings of War Horse… but no!
EVIL LANDLORD’S SON: I remember that horse! You fell off it that one time while I was driving a car!
ALBERT: Hey, do you remember the name of the girl you were driving with?
EVIL LANDLORD’S SON: Not particularly.
AUDIENCE: Wait, was this sequence the only reason for that earlier scene?
STEVEN SPIELBERG: Excuse me, but I have a Best Director Oscar and you don’t, so shut up in your stupid face.
GEORDIE: Oh, I am so scared of going to war!
EVIL LANDLORD’S SON: Don’t be scared! Just remember to kill any of your friends that try to retreat, and you’ll be fine.
The English CHARGE OVER THE TOP and most of them get killed because this is World War One, duh. The EVIL LANDLORD’S SON gets shot, but Albert drags him to safety. Albert then takes out a machine-gunner’s nest with a grenade and drops into the German trench, where he is overcome by all the dead Germans he just killed with his grenade. Geordie comes up behind him and Albert nearly shoots him, but stops himself just in time.
GEORDIE: Hah on you, audience! That was exactly the moment where I would have died ironically, but it didn’t happen, now, did it?
BRITISH SERGEANT: GAS! GAS!
GEORDIE: Oh, balls.
Geordie dies in the gas. Albert is wounded. Meanwhile, back in German lines, the Germans are retreating. Fat Horse-Loving German runs to War Horse and Cumberhorse and drags them away from duty. Cumberhorse, exhausted, lies down, dying. War Horse and the Fat German comfort him in his final moments. War Horse says things to Cumberhorse in horse talk. Then a TANK shows up.
FAT GERMAN: Run! Run, War Horse!
TANK: I REPRESENT TERRIBLE, UNSTOPPABLE PROGRESS!
War Horse RUNS AWAY FROM THE TANK, eventually charging through enemy lines and running right through multiple barbed wire fences until he is bogged down in No Man’s Land and horribly entangled in barbed wire.
BRITISH SOLDIER NAMED COLIN: Somebody should go do something about that horse.
GERMAN SOLDIER NAMED PETER: Somebody should go do something about that horse.
Eventually Colin and Peter both go to save War Horse. They work together to cut the horse free.
COLIN: I say, this is quite a nice scene, isn’t it?
PETER: Ja, it serves quite effectively to convey the horror of war without overplaying it with a heavy sense of irony.
COLIN: Something about how war disrupts the essential sense of brotherhood that exists among all men, that sort of thing?
PETER: This is precisely what I was thinking. You do not need clever twists to show how war ruins people’s lives.
COLIN: In fact, one might even suggest that a scene like this, where we work at common purpose and demonstrate simple humanity in the midst of carnage and terror, does the job ten times better than that.
PETER: Indeed. I don’t know why the rest of the movie isn’t like this.
STEVEN SPIELBERG: You both be quiet.
Eventually they free War Horse, and after a coinflip Colin takes War Horse back to British lines and a doctor, who is also DAVOS SEAWORTH in the next season of GAME OF THRONES.
COLIN: Hello, doctor. Can you fix this horse?
DAVOS: Let me think about that for a second. I can save a number of human patients, or a horse. Gosh, even if this horse is special, I think I have to go with the people.
COLIN: Look, I don’t think you understand – this is a miracle horse.
DAVOS: I can see from here that those cuts are infected. He almost certainly has tetanus. I can waste time on the horse, or I can save this person over here from bleeding to death. How is this a hard choice? Sergeant, give the horse a noble end.
COLIN: But he’s a miracle horse!
DAVOS: He ran into barbed wire and you rescued him, and now he’s going to die of infection. What’s miraculous about that? If somebody can’t give me a really, really amazing reason to save this horse, then we shoot him. Anybody? No? Okay, sergeant, shoot the horse.
The SERGEANT prepares to shoot War Horse, but in the distance Albert WHISTLES his special summoning-whistle from offscreen. War Horse looks up, seeking Albert.
DAVOS: …why haven’t you shot the horse yet?
SERGEANT: Cos he moved his head a bit.
The sergeant tries to shoot War Horse again, but Albert whistles again and War Horse again looks around for Albert.
DAVOS: Why does him moving his head stop you from shooting him in it once he stops moving?
SERGEANT: Dunno. Maybe it is a miracle horse?
ALBERT: That’s my horse!
WAR HORSE comes and nuzzles Albert, who is TEMPORARILY BLIND because of the gas attack.
DAVOS: Look, I’m glad you found a friend, but we have to kill this horse.
ALBERT: He’s my horse! I raised him, I did! He has four white socks and a white thingy on his forehead!
DAVOS: I don’t see any white marks on this mud-encrusted horse.
COLIN: What if… we washed off all of the mud?
They wash War Horse and his white markings are revealed.
DAVOS: My word. Well, I take back everything I said about putting this horse out of its misery as it is almost certainly infected with tetanus. Clearly, this is a miracle horse and must become my first priority. Sorry, human patients!
MAN BLEEDING TO DEATH: Arrrrgh arrrrgh arrrrrgh.
Albert recovers. The war ends. War Horse is to be sold at auction, and the entire brigade has chipped in thirty pounds so Albert can buy War Horse. It is mentioned in passing that the Evil Landlord’s Son tried to pretend that War Horse was his so Albert could get it for free, showing that the Evil Landlord’s Son is not a bad chap after all. An EVIL FRENCHMAN, however, is present and wants to buy War Horse.
SERGEANT: Albert bids thirty pounds!
ALBERT: Wait, why are you bidding instead of me?
EVIL FRENCHMAN: Forty pounds for this battle-scarred but very clearly special horse! Good day, English kiniggets!
GRANDPA: One hundred pounds! And if I have to go into bankruptcy to own this horse, then I will do so!
Grandpa wins War Horse.
ALBERT: Excuse me, sir, but please let me buy my horse from you?
GRANDPA: No. My granddaughter died offscreen from her illness, as I foretold. Now this horse is all that I have left of her, as the Germans came back and took all of her toys and dresses and such to be used as crude tools on the front lines.
ALBERT: Well, all right then. Can I say goodbye to War Horse?
ALBERT: War Horse, you be a good horse for this man, all right? You help him around the farm, and do chores, and cook his meals maybe. Because you’re the very specialest horse in the world and my best friend and I love you, but sometimes life isn’t fair, and we have to strive on, and -
GRANDPA: Oh, Jesus, just take the horse.
ALBERT: Thank you so much, sir. What was your granddaughter’s name?
GRANDPA: Emily. Why? Is this going to be significant to the narrative in any way?
ALBERT: Not at all, actually. I mean, they’re not going to show me meeting that girl from the horse-versus-car race early in the film now that I am a grown-up soldier. Maybe we could pretend that I name my first daughter Emily as a sign of respect, even though we never see that.
GRANDPA: Good enough for me.
Albert returns home during a GLORIOUS SUNSET that is so gorgeous it LOOKS LIKE A GREENSCREEN even though it isn’t. Albert embraces his mother, and then his father, who knows that Albert is now as fucked up as he is. We close on a shot of War Horse, glowing golden in the sunset light.
STEVEN SPIELBERG: Take that, Scorcese! “A 3D love letter to the founding father of cinema,” my ass – this is how you win Oscars. Cinematography. war, and horses.
AUDIENCE: TWO AND A HALF HOURS WE SPENT WATCHING THIS?