War Horse

Musical Score By: John Williams

Distributed by: Sony Music

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            Based on the 1982 children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo and the 2007 stage adaptation, the movie War Horse takes place during World War I.  The film centers around the friendship between a horse named Joey and Albert (Jeremy Irvine), the young man who tames and trains him.  When Joey is sold to the cavalry, he begins a remarkable journey, serving on both sides of the war and touching the lives of all he meets.  Having seen promos for the stage version, I was excited to hear that Steven Spielberg would be taking on the film version of War Horse and when I was asked to review the musical score of War Horse by one of my favorite composers, I was ecstatic.

            The musical score of War Horse was created by American composer and five time Academy Award winner John Williams.  A legend among film music composers with a career spanning almost six decades, John Williams has composed some of best known film scores of all time, including the Star Wars saga, Jaws, Superman, the Indiana Jones films, E.T., Schindler’s List, Memoirs of a Geisha, the first three Harry Potter films and more.

            You can recognize a John Williams soundtrack right away.  Every single one has an epic symphonic presence and you instantly get the impression that the movie for which it has been created is going to be filled with amazing dramatic moments.  Such is the case with War Horse.  According to Steven Spielberg, “The dramatic countryside of Dartmoor has inspired John Williams to compose a score of such beauty and quiet majesty that one might think the earth was speaking through him, much as the heavens have done for nearly five decades.”  The opening track, Dartmoor, 1912, gives the listener the idea of a sweeping countryside…a wide open space where a horse like Joey can enjoy incredible freedom.  It is this track that contains the theme of the film that will weave its way through tracks to come.

            The entire album is a wonderful listening experience, from the sweeping plains to the playfulness of a horse bonding with a special friend to the dark and frightening experience of war, the music perfectly describes the emotions and drama taking place in the film.  There is a definite Celtic influence to it as the film takes place in Devon, England, home to a tribe of Celtic people prior to the Roman invasion of 43AD.  This gives the listener a better idea of the locale of the film and me a more pleasurable listening experience - I love Celtic-influenced music.

            The music of the War Horse is as epic as I expected it to be.  John Williams is an amazing composer who always manages to wow me with his creations.  Despite the fact that you will recognize pieces from older compositions in this album, somehow John Williams’ incorporation of these pieces with his Celtic-influenced theme makes them sound brand new.  John Williams is just one of those composers who never disappoints and the War Horse Soundtrack is yet another example of his unerring ability to create just the right music for any film project he takes on.


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