Friday, 3 February 2012

War Horse (2012) - review

Running Time: 146 mins
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan
Screenplay: Lee Hall, Richard Curtis
UK Release Date: 27th January  - UK

Quick Plot: In 1914 England, young Albert trains and bonds with a horse named Joey. After the war breaks out, Joey is sold to battle alongside Britain and so begins his journey through France, touching hearts of many people.

Review: Converting the famous children’s book by Michael Morpurgo and West End adaptation War Horse into a film is something only a few directors would be successful in. Luckily, Steven Spielberg has been. In possibly his most family orientated directorial in years, War Horse includes all the pieces needed for a Spielbergian classic and then more.

War Horse sticks to everything Spielberg is known for; beautiful setting shots, a little hint of war and characters that are so engaging to watch; it’s hard not to admire many things about the film.
Morpurgo’s novel is told through the eyes of the horse, therefore it is expected that a film from this view would be a challenge to create. Spielberg’s War Horse mostly looks at Joey, the very characteristic horse of the film, as he experiences different people in his journey. Then there are other moments where everything is seen from Joey’s point of view. From the beginning scene of Joey’s birthday to the separation from his mother, Joey’s introduction is explained in beautiful detail which makes it so easy to feel for him and identify Joey as the protagonist.
As always, John Williams’ score and theme for War Horse helps encourage empathy towards characters and situations. With bold, strong string chimes and tones, Joey’s presence is at times gracious and others, weak and frightened. Williams has created a defined a theme for Joey, which is sure to be iconic in years to come.

Although overall it feels like an 80s/90s Spielberg classic, the technology in transitions and cinematography offer War Horse a modern flare. Little moments in scenes are cleverly crafted to minimise the horror of war for a family viewing, but of course the war theme is something Stevie perfects. Watch out for a mesmerising shot with a windmill sail, though not at all pleasant it’s gentle to the heart one of the best moments.

Young Jeremy Irvine, as Joey’s human pal Albert, holds a passion in his first feature film role showing in many ways the meanings in Morpurgo’s book. Albert is Joey’s main friend during his adventure and like many Spielberg films; it’s a cherished friendship which reflects traces of Elliot and ET. Albert’s time training Joey is an enjoyable and precious which definitely highlights the sheer beauty of the story. The rest of the ensemble is strong; Watson, Mullan, Thewlis, Hiddleston and Cumberbatch give real, emotive inputs which are as good as ever. Even with the difference in character screen time, neither actor stands above another in particular because War Hose is a collective ensemble piece.

The 146 minute run time is a bit of a stretch, especially for a family viewing, but the film doesn’t feel dragged out in the end. For each individual, there will be people Joey meets who are preferred and others who feel irritating or a little selfish, but each segment of the film has a moment where your heart moves.
To finish, the English and German solider conversion needs a small mention- War Horse isn't expected to funny, but near the end of the film there is a grand scene with an English and German soldier which lit up the approaching end. There is no official or professional way to describe it other than absolutely lovely and touching.

War Horse is a definite Spielberg hit which has something for every member of the family. It’s the perfect Sunday afternoon film, but make sure you have tissues handy.

War Horse trailer
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