Though the specifics may vary some, survival narratives with tough men of violence protecting innocent children have become increasingly common in films from multiple countries and existing within several genres. Even the recently released science fiction film 65 follows this formula. Warhorse One doesn’t have a genre revision of the formula and is just a straightforward survival film set within recent history, but that doesn’t make the film any more believable than a sci-fi film with dinosaurs. Unfortunately, despite some decent efforts at staging the film’s violence, the narrative always feels contrived and attempts emotional manipulation with the youngest cast member.
Set during the 2021 withdrawal of the United States military from Afghanistan, Warhorse One follows the lone survivor of a crashed SEAL team helicopter as he struggles to complete his mission. Master Chief Richard Mirko (Johnny Strong) finds a young American girl named Zoe Walters (Athena Durner) whose family was killed by the hostile insurgents determined to hunt her down too. Although the dedication to kill this young girl is never fully explained, it provides the opportunity for Mirko to be the hero and protect her from the enemy depicted as nothing short of pure evil.
Despite the predictable and formulaic nature of the story, Warhorse One drags it out in a run-time that is easily 30 minutes longer than it needs to be, with plenty of repetitive scenes of running and shooting. Along the way the trained soldier inevitably develops a bond with the young girl he is saving, depicted through endless scenes of painfully forced dialogue with the inexperienced child actress cast in the role. One of the rules of inexperienced filmmakers is not to work with animals or children, and Strong also unwisely attempts to act while also earning his first co-directing credit.
The drama in the film feels contrived in the way you might expect from someone attempting to emulate other movies rather than coming from a place of realism or creative storytelling. While the action is more effectively staged (assuming one can accept the CGI muzzle flares), even these sequences become repetitive over the 126-minute run time. In short, although Warhorse One seems to have noble intentions with its themes, the final result feels much more like a vanity project that got out of hand. I’m glad Strong had the power to depict himself as a noble hero, complete with cover art that blatantly rips off the poster for American Soldier, but this will work better for his acting reel than as a piece of entertainment.
The Blu-ray release includes a director’s commentary featurette that did little to change my mind about the filmmaking, in addition the theatrical trailer. Although the high definition does little to improve the film, it does highlight the effectiveness of the locations chosen by the production.
Entertainment Value: 3.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 4/10
Historical Significance: 0/10
Special Features: 4/10