War Horse review
In theory Steven Spielberg and the ‘War Horse’ book should be a dream pairing.
It’s the charming kid’s story by Michael Morpurgo, which tells the story of World War I from a horse’s perspective, made by the man who redefined the modern war movie with ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Band of Brothers’.
[ See more: 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' review]
In practice however ‘ War Horse’ is perhaps the year’s most misjudged movie; a cloying, over-earnest and sickeningly sweet dollop of faux-Englishness that’ll give you a hankering for horse meat.
The movie begins with wide-eyed lead character Albert Narracott (Jeremy Irvine) ogling the titular horse, called Joey, prancing in a field. It’s the start of weak opening act set in an idyllic English countryside that probably never existed, and introduces our clichéd cast of characters.
Besides earnest Albert, we have his dad (Peter Mullan), an alcoholic farmer with a heart of gold, and his long suffering wife (Emily Watson) who puts up with the drinking because he injured his leg in the Crimean war.
Familiar sight... We see Joey in silhouette a lot
The family has money troubles thanks to evil landlord Lyons (a mustached David Thewlis) - problems made worse when Dad buys Joey at a hugely inflated price because “there’s something special about that ‘orse!”
It’s like a moving Cotswold postcard thanks in part to the broad characters, but also Spielberg’s insistence on filming everything as artificially as possible.
The character’s all speak in the kind of broad West Country brogue that Americans like to think represents the British countryside.
The supposedly ramshackle Narrocott farm looks like a Constable painting, while every other shot of Joey, seemingly, is backlit by a fake sunset as he sways his mane in slow motion.
Thankfully, proceedings pick up when war breaks out. Dad flogs Joey to the British army and he becomes a steed for cavalry officer Captain Nichols (Tom Hiddleston).
The scenes with the over-confident cavalry class are the best in the film – with Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Major Stewart (TV’s Sherlock) interacting believably and poignantly.
Neigh good... man/horse love "cloying"
They feature in a stunning battle sequence; which sees the English cavalry emerge from a wheat field and charge a supposedly undefended German camp, only to find themselves faced by a battery of machine guns.