REVIEW: War Horse

War Horse is an absolutely magnificent portrayal of one boy and his horse, cruelly separated by the horrors of war and not knowing whether they will ever see each other, or their homeland, again, says Laura Reynolds.

From the off, you can tell that Steven Spielberg is behind this film – from the fabulously silhouetted shots to the immaculate use of lighting and horrifyingly visual war scenes. It’s disappointing that the film has a 12A rating, as the novel was written for children, but with Spielberg sticking to what he does best, what else was to be expected? It has to be said though, any true animal lover will find many scenes highly distressing.

One particular scene subtracts any form of reality from the film, which is saddening. I refer to the scene in which Albie is training Joey to stay and come on demand, in which it is made to look far simpler than any animal lover knows to be the truth. This is clearly a device used to demonstrate the strength of the unlikely and unbreakable bond between Albie and Joey, but to be honest, many audience members were left cringing.

Having seen the West End stage show, it’s hard to deny that the story is approached from a different angle; the West End version considers the toils of life and war from the point of view of the whole Narracott family, whereas the film ensures that the audiences’ interests are vetted entirely in the survival of Joey and Albie. This is understandable, as it makes the story more recognisable to a wider audience. It also allows Spielberg to devote more screen time to what he does best – breath-taking action scenes.

Other than the odd moment of weakness, the story was well portrayed, and pleasantly interspersed with humour. This may sound insensitive considering the delicate subject matter, but in fact it provides the perfect amount of light relief from the atrocities of war.

Some incredible acting (save Emily Watson, who plays Rose Narracott – although this is mostly due to a bad casting choice rather than any lack of skill on her part), an emotional musical score and an undoubtedly huge budget combine to make this one of the most enjoyable films for a long while. The two hours flies by.

War Horse is in cinemas now.

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