Another early review has popped up, this by Ted Pigeon:
The film centers on a horse named Joey, who is auctioned off to a poor farmer who can hardly afford to maintain the farm and support his family. The farmer’s son, Albert (Jeremy Irvine), trains Joey to plow the fields and eventually takes the horse under his wing. Structurally, War Horse resembles Spielberg’s film of ten years ago, A.I.. The first act presents a focused family drama before drastically changing course for an episodic second act, which follows the horse on a series of encounters with a variety of folks on different sides of the war. Like A.I., this film is most effective in delivering the shorter vignettes in its long middle section rather than with the main story established in the opening 30 to 40 minutes. However, while A.I. gave us a machine who simulated the actions and emotions of a human, Spielberg here asks us to invest in an animal that cannot feel or simulate human emotion. To his credit, Spielberg mostly avoids attributing human feelings to animals, though there are a few points that veer close. But to my surprise, the “horse perspective” plot device works very well because the story remains fixed on the human characters that weave throughout the narrative. Each of the smaller portraits in the middle of the film are delicate and compelling in depicting how various individuals are affected by and participate in the war. While not especially subtle, these smaller stories are quilted together into a larger anti-war mosaic that I found much more convincing than the director’s 1998 anti-(but-also-pro-)war film Saving Private Ryan. This film gives us characters on all sides of the conflict that are fearful, caring, and human.