I’ve seen Steven Spielberg’s ‘War Horse’ and it’s very, very good.
I must admit I was a little unsure how Michael Morpurgo’s novel, originally aimed at children and young adults, would work on film. The theatre show has drawn rave reviews, but a movie? And based on such emotionally-charged subject matter?
As it turns out the opening minutes will please the horse-oriented more than those with only a passing equine interest. Morpurgo originally wrote the novel from the horse’s point of view but Spielberg has avoided this Black Beauty-type storytelling method by concentrating more on the human characters who affect the horse’s life. The film is no worse for the change which helps increase the pace as the movie progresses.
I won’t spoil it for anyone who’s not read the book by giving away the plot. Suffice to say that the story centres on a horse, Joey, brought up in rural Devon, who is sold to the army and sent to the Western Front, at the beginning of World War I, as an officer’s charger.
And though the horrors and sufferings caused by the war are essential elements, as befits a family film blood is kept to a minimum and there is absolutely no gratuitous gore. Strangely this seems not to compromise the gritty realism of the battlefield scenes, a couple of which, later on in the action, may be upsetting for very young children.
So, does the film have any faults?
Well, there’s far too much whinnying, a pet hate of mine which plagues films involving horses. Cavalry aficionados may poke fun at a practice charge and the non-use of sword knots. And continuity geeks will no doubt spot the magic rope halter early on – now you see it…
But these are mere nit-picking. The preview screening I watched in front of a full house had no-one, child through pensioner, moving from his or her seat throughout the 140-odd minute running time. That tells me most were captivated. I reckon if the soundtrack had suddenly failed you could have heard a pin drop.
There are few recent films which have made one feel better leaving the cinema than when one arrived – spiritually uplifted, in fact.
War Horse is such a film, and I urge you to see it.
But…you will cry.
War Horse opens in cinemas in the US on Christmas Day and in the UK on January 13th