Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)

You might not know this but I begin most movies with this stinky pessimistic spirit about me. I have this preconception of what the film will be and expect to experience something which fits into my prepared convention. Thankfully, this spirit of mine is usually proven wrong (for better or worse). When this comes to children’s animation it is even more so. So needless to say “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” blew away all of my expectations.

Starting this film I expected this to be another kid flick with talking animals caught in an absurd situation. Boy was I wrong. While there were animals, and they were caught in a situation, I wouldn’t by any means call it absurd. Their neighs and cries were more stylized, thus giving them a more “human-like” character but even these small formalities (it is a kid’s movie after all) didn’t turn it into another cheesy family film.

The tale is simple: a horse-dubbed Spirit-is captured by U.S army cavalrymen during a scouting mission. Torn away from his herd Spirit is brought into their fort where the efforts of their snake-esque leader attempt to wear down and break Spirit into submission. However, Spirit is anything but docile and with the help of a captured Native escapes. Once free he is taken to the Native American’s camp where he meets the unnamed love of his life. A romance ensues. Yet before their relationship can be consummated the camp is attacked by the aforementioned cavalrymen. Forced into a retreat, leaving behind his love, Spirit is recaptured and taken to a railroad track where he, along with dozens of other horses, are forced to undergo strenuous manual labor moving train compartments. Like before, however, Spirit disrupts the flow and flees the site, once again, with the help of his unnamed Native friend. Returning to the new Native camp, though not before a daring escape scene involving a dash through canyons, Spirit’s Native friend releases not only Spirit from his care but the Spirit’s mistress as well. Finally able to return home with his darling they run off into the distance to gain their freedom.

Overall this movie is an artistic expression, a ballad expressed through the struggles of a horse longing for liberation. Representative of the proud natives who simply wanted to live their own lives free from persecution while also possessing a dual role for anyone trapped in an unjust situation, the film is an work of emotion. Moments of happiness are spaced between tid-bits of sorrow, anger, and mystery.

There are no mishaps. For the purpose of what the directors were trying to achieve everything works as it should. Viewers should take note, however, that this film is a thread set to music: aside from the brief narrative interspaced between several conjectures, there is no substantial spoken dialogue. This is a movie for those who want a tale where you have to use your sense of empathy. Though the plot is simple this does not mean it is spoon fed to you. So while this may be a turn off for some, for me, it was as wonderful as it could be. It may not be the film of the decade by Spirit is sure to please if you want a family movie of a different sort.

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