I like horses.
I like movies.
I have a fair collection of horsey movies. So, I thought I would do a thread with my opinions on the horsey movies I've seen. Starting with:
Imagine having a loved one, who you've known and grown up with for years.
Now imagine that loved one suddenly having to depart, possibly never to return. What lengths would you go to, to get them back?
That is the essence of Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's classic children's novel, War Horse.
It tells the story of Albert, a Devonshire farmboy, and his relationship with Joey, a young horse bought by his father. Despite the trials and tribulations of owning Joey, Albert becomes increasingly attached to the young horse until he is unscrupulously sold in an attempt to clear his father's debts. Joey joins the local army regiment and is soon packed off to the Western Front, to the unfolding horrors of the First World War....
What unfolds over the course of 146 minutes is a film that will equally tear at the heart strings and send your pulse into overdrive. This is a return to form for Spielberg, where he melds spectacular setpieces with heart-wrenching emotion. The script, adapted from both the book and the award-winning stage show by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot
) and Richard Curtiss (Blackadder Goes Forth
, among others), follows the novel very closely, but adds much more to its basic premise. John Williams also brings forth an amazing score: rousing, spectacular, menacing, emotive, subtle.
For a film pegged at 146 minutes, it never feels too long. There's never a boring moment in it: not a shot wasted or a page of script which could have been trimmed out. The film feels taught and crisp, like Spielberg's been off on holiday for a long while and come back to work with a new energy. The horse sequences give Joey a personality, rather than just exist as part of the story. In a scene in which another horse dies in battle next to him, you can literally tell what Joey is thinking as he tries to nudge his friend back to life. If your tear ducts don't fill at this one scene, then you must have something wrong with you! Naturally, as this is a First World War film, comparisons will be drawn to Spielberg's other war epic, Saving Private Ryan
. Well, this is just as exciting, just as brutal, just as terrifying as the opening 30 minutes of that film. I went with a friend who freely admits that, during the trench sequences, she was actually ducking and jumping as the cannon shells and machine-gun bullets flew.
I might seem biased, given that I'm a keen horse rider, but believe me I think I would have loved this film even if I'd never sat on a horse in my life. I can't recall coming out of a cinema screening where I felt as though my emotions had been given a workout like that. The film will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you cheer by the end. And I guarantee there won't be a dry eye in the house.