Given that 2014 is the Year of the Horse, I guess that it is appropriate that I do a movie/DVD review of one (even if it’s technically a few weeks too early). DreamWorks’ Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is an original story that offers a breathtaking narrative about the wild horses of the Old West, and how one of them, an unnamed and untamed Kiger stallion, made his mark in history.
I love horses — both the real (the most memorable being the legendary “Queen-of-the-Fillies” filly Ruffian and the unbeaten (in-all-25-races) Australian mare Black Caviar) and the fictional ones like Black Beauty and the Black Stallion. The introductory IMAX-like aerial sequence that takes the viewer from rushing rapids carving deep waterways through the vast and majestic heart of the Grand Canyon, to forests teeming with trees, snow-capped mountains, and the thunderous ovation of equine hooves on the open plains, made me determined to see Spirit on the big screen.
I like the fact that the horses in Spirit aren’t anthropomorphized; they don’t speak in English or do human things like knock back a couple of beers with their chums. Nevertheless, giving them eyebrows, and Rain the paint mare a blonde mane and blue eyes is taking some liberties. Also, when Matt Damon, as the narrator who voices the thoughts of the protagonist, says, “we would always belong here”, this is technically incorrect; horses are actually not native to North America. But it certainly makes for a dramatic statement, doesn’t it? 🙂 ) I’ll overlook these inaccuracies, because Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron really is a touching story with beautiful animation. I’ll still watch the DVD several times a year.
The dramatic soundtrack is another reason to watch the movie. I am well acquainted with the work of Hans Zimmer; as a prolific and critically-acclaimed composer, he has scored for box office hits like The Lion King, The Last Samurai, and Inception. Another bonus is hearing Bryan Adams as vocalist; the Reckless / Eighten Till I Die singer is the perfect choice, as he epitizomes the wild, raw, and untamed nature of the titular character. As said horse doesn’t speak English, both the score and the songs paint his moods and add levity or gravitas to the situations he’s in.
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron chronicles the birth and early life of this herd leader, and then, thanks to a combination of curiosity and a chance meeting with humans, the cultivation of an unlikely alliance between himself and Little Creek, a young Lakota native, through their shared fate as captives. It is a bond that is further deepened by each other’s rescue of the other in different situations. Little Creek tries hard and very patiently to ride the stallion, but is rebuffed and thrown time after time. Finally accepting that this creature is truly beyond domestication, he sets him free. What happens next is an adventure that neither expects.
The most beautiful moment of the movie is, of course, an exciting pursuit on horseback by the Colonel and his men–one that culminates into the fugitives’ “flight” across the Grand Canyon. This breathtaking maneuver earns the unbreakable mustang the grudging respect of the pursuing Colonel as the former shows his nemesis, in no small way, that freedom is worth the ultimate leap of faith (or, to quote Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death.”) It also leads Little Creek to name him “Spirit-Who-Could-Not-Be-Broken.” Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron is great family fare, and it is a film classic whose greatness approaches Disney’s Bambi–one that will have you laughing, cheering, and crying.