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Overly sentimental and a bit graphic for the under 12's
on 8 May 2012
War Horse the movie has come about following the massive success of the West End and Broadway play which itself was based upon the novel by popular UK children's author Michael Morpurgo .
War Horse tells the story of Joey, a beloved farm horse who is sold into the military for the purpose of World War One. Over the course of the story ownership of the horse passes through multiple hands, each owner contributing a different aspect of the overall story.
I was very concerned over the course of the first twenty minutes of this film, that I was going to hate it with it's triumph over odds cheesiness and comedy Hobbitesque Devonshire accents, but, after Tom Hiddleston's Captain Nicholls becomes Joey's temporary custodian, the film really changes tone and gear. It feels like war movies that used to be made in the 1960's or so, and feels despite its American helmer, like a truly old fashioned British war film and is endearing for that quality. This Britishness may have come from the script, a superb adaptation from Lee Hall (best known for Billy Elliot) and Richard Curtis of every decent Hugh Grant film ever fame. Whilst on the subject of Lee Hall, I'd like to recommend his stunning radioplay Spoonface Steinberg as something to look out for.
World War One was the final conflict in which animals were extensively used in battle and indeed a monument still stands to the innocent fallen animals who never asked to be a part of it in Park Lane, London. The key to War Horse as a story, is that the film, like the horse has no allegiance to any flag or king, and it highlights not just Allied losses and victories but the human and non human cost as a whole, the tragedy and the futility of war. This is the point of War Horse and it's intelligence.
As far as acting is concerned though Jeremy Irvine is the "star" as it were, given the episodic nature of the film, it is really much more an ensemble piece, with no real standout role save for the horse which is the heart and soul of the film. As a cinephile, this film is Spielberg to its core, from its soaring John Williams score to its sentimental heartbeat there is no mistaking this for a work of another director. Indeed, you were asked to give an example of what a "Spielberg film" typifies in terms of schmaltz and sentimentality, War Horse is pretty much its poster child, though this works throughout the film, it almost overwhelms it in its closing scenes, and becomes slightly cloying. Interestingly, though Spielberg has made six war movies previously, this, his seventh, is his first foray into The Great War, and he has done it so well, I wonder if he'll return.....
I feel I must take some time to talk about that menace to cinema fans and parents alike that is the 12 A rating, that one were children under 12 can be admitted to a variety of films as long as they are with a parent. I don't think I'm wrong in saying that 12 should've remained 12 and over ONLY. It would remove the problem of persuasion power for concerned parents, keen to preserve their children's innocence as long as possible, who are now unsure whether the film will be suitable for their child or not, and it enhances the experience for the average cinema goer. There were young children in my screening, and, though War Horse is educational and was written by a childrens author it is far more graphic a prospect on screen, with shots littered with dead bodies/animal carcasses on barbed wire and boys/animals being shot in the head. If your child is remotely sensitive please do not be seduced into thinking it's just a soppy film about a horse and do not take them. I will be advising my friend with 10 year and 8 year old girls to steer very clear of this film. Nightmares ahoy.
In the end, I enjoyed this film very much, cried several times and forgave it its cheesier side but still 3/5