Archive Review – “War Horse” (Director: Steven Spielberg)

Review first published 13/01/2012

War Horse

Based on the best-selling novel by Michael Morpurgo and the multi-award winning
stage show, War Horse  is the story of the friendship and bond between a horse
called Joey and a young man by the name of Albert Narracott.

From the
advent of World War I and through the War itself, it shows how Joey touches the
lives of those around him – from the farm in Devon where he is raised and
trained, his forced separation from Albert, and to the battlefields of
France.

I’ve been eagerly looking forward to this film since I heard
that it was being made, especially as I had seen the stage version in 2009.  I
have to say that although this is a different vision to the story, due to
difference in media between stage and screen, it is still a moving vision of
Morpurgo’s story to watch.

Steven Spielberg, along with screenwriters
Richard Curtis and Lee Hall, accomplish the feat of making an emotional film
which doesn’t fall into the trap of being overly sentimental.  Spielberg also
effectively shows the effects of war without dwelling on the horror of it. (This
is significant during the early cavalry charge scene which is shown through
cutting between the German machine gun battery and a fantastic reaction shot of
Tom Hiddleston’s Captain Nicholls.)

Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography is
nothing short of beautiful.  He captures the stereotypical beauty of the Devon
countryside and the fields of Northern France with beautiful golds, browns and
greens and manages to replace them with cold and dark scenes of the trenches and
No Man’s Land.

Regular Spielberg collaborator, John Williams, pitches a
perfect soundtrack to suit this film which accompanies the beauty of the British
landscape (sounding very much like Vaughn-Williams’ “The Lark Ascending”), the
playfulness of Joey’s relationship with Albert and, later in the film, the
French farm girl Emilie, and the action and horror of Joey’s experiences on the
front line.

The acting talent of this film is top notch and, like all the
other departments involved in this film, pitch perfect.  It seems a shame to
single individuals out, but I would like to give special nods to Tom Hiddleston
in the role of the sympathetic (both to Joey and Albert) Captain Nicholls,
Niels Arestrup who portrays the French grandfather who gets a beautifully
written piece of dialogue about how carrier pigeons have to keep flying over a
war zone, Peter Mullan and Emily Watson as Albert’s parents, and Jeremy Irvine
in the role of Albert who gives the portrayal of an innocent young man yet to be
touched by the outside world which is done without making the character seems
like a simpleton.

This film can hold its head up and sit alongside
Spielberg’s other epic war films such as “Saving Private Ryan”, “Empire Of The
Sun” and “Schindler’s List” whilst remaining true to the central premise that
war makes victims whether they be combatants, civilians or
animals.

Rating: 5/5

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