Star rating – 8/10
No-one does epic Hollywood sentimentality on a scale quite like Steven Spielberg, so to accuse his latest film ‘War Horse’; of being over sentimental, is a bit like saying there was a bit too much espionage in ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’. That’s sort of the point. And this is undeniably an epic and sentimental film, but it is also a great sweeping journey back to the golden days of Hollywood, reminiscent of the glory of ‘Gone with the Wind’.
And Spielberg again shows just what a fabulous director he is with this adaptation of the Michael Morpurgo book, already a long running West End hit with the magic of puppetry. It’s the story of a poor farmer’s son, Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his beautiful and clever thoroughbred horse Joey. Joey is not really the hard working stout carthorse that the family need to help on the farm, but Albie and Joey show what they are made of against the odds.
And ‘against the odds’ is very much the theme of the whole film, as Joey is sold to go off on fight in the First World War, is captured by Germans, and gets horrendously trapped in the barbed wire of no man’s land, showing great bravery and intelligence throughout. The action is broken up into a series of cameos, some admittedly stronger than others, as Joey’s adventures unwind.
The play is brilliant, this film is great. Being Spielberg, and catering for a family audience, the violence of the trenches is not shown in absolute graphic detail, but it still gets across something of the horror of the conflict. If your heart isn’t warmed by this lovely, sad adventure then shame on you. If you don’t like sentimental Hollywood epics with animals than you are advised to give it a wide berth. Luckily I do, and can appreciate in it the work of a genius director, the like of whom we may not see again. It’s just a shame they did not see fit to credit the horse at the end of the film like they did with the doggie star of ‘The Artist’!