If I was to ask you to watch an animated film in which the characters do not speak you would probably thing I was crazy and the film wouldn’t work. Then if they were to watch the Dreamworks film Spirit: The Stallion of Cimarron they would change their mind.
Born wild in the West of the United States to a beautiful mare, the stallion Spirit (Matt Damon – The Bourne Identity, Good Will Hunting) shows almost from the get go that his name is not only just a haphazard label but one that fits him to a T. From the time he was a foal up until he is leader of the pack Spirit is a horse that is filled with exactly that.
One evening his natural curiousity gets the better of him. The wild mustang sees a bright light off in the distance and decides to go in for a closer look. It turns out the light comes from the campfire lit by a group of cowboys. When they are awoken by the noises made by the curious Spirit they are so impressed by the stallion that they attempt to rope him. Easier said than done. After taking them on a long chase they finally manage to catch him. To make some money they sell the Mustang to a nearby division of the U.S. Calvary.
The Colonel (James Cromwell – The Green Mile, L.A. Confidential) entrusts the breaking of Spirit to his men. Despite the fact that they are experienced horse men none of them is able to break the strong willed wild stallion. When even the proud Colonel fails he decides to shoot the horse. A young Lakota (Daniel Studi), who has also been captured by the Calvary, saves Spirit’s live and rides off on his back.
Little Creek brings Spirit back to his tribe and introduces him to his mare. Spirit and Rain fall for one another, but neither wants to leave their “herd” to be with the other. The falling in love is interrupted by the Calvary attacking the Lakota tribe. While trying to save the Lakota Spirit is captured again. This time he, along with many other horses are used as draft-horses to move an train engine over a mountain. While pulling the load Spirit realizes that they are going to build the railroad through Utah and the land his herd lives on. The stallion is going to do his best to make sure this doesn’t happen.
Sometimes in life it is necessary to be reminded that courage and persistence will see you through. A film like this really hits this point home. A connection between the viewer and the horse is almost instantaneous. You see that he just wants to retain the freedom he and his herd have always had. It is not unreasonable and most know what happens to animals when humans move in then take over. The United States used to be a beautifully wild environment until humans moved in. This film takes us back to those more innocent, simple and free times.
Most of the time when a film is made about the Old West it is told, as to be expected, from a human point of view. This one is from the perspective of a young and wild stallion living there. In most animated films featuring animals they all talk just as humans do. In Spirit: The Stallion of Cimarron none of the animals talk and that makes it a heck of a lot more realistic. Through the narration and the songs we get to know what this horse thinks and feels. Speech is not necessary when you have the voice of Bryan Adams and the score of Hans Zimmer to fill in the blanks.
Fun for the entire family regardless of age, Spirit: The Stallion of Cimarron is an engaging story about courage and the importance of freedom. Couple those strong points with a great soundtrack and a cool mixture of computer generated animation with that of the hand drawn variety and you have a winning formula.