Sunday, 18 December 2011

Popcorn Moment: War Horse

Fans of Michael Morpurgo's War Horse may feel some trepidation when faced with an adaptation to the big screen. How can a story narrated by a horse be made into a believable film? For those not familiar with the book, the central character is Joey, a young thoroughbred who gets sent to battle in World War I. He is above all a neutral viewpoint and highlights the needless tragedy on all sides of the war.

Richard Curtis and Lee Hall have done a wonderful job writing a screenplay which focuses on the horses, with the human players a supporting cast. For me, the start was a little slow, lingering on Joey's formative years more than the book does. Albert's father may be a drunk but is not cruel and that takes away an aspect that might have given a bit more pace. The tone of the film certainly changes when the horses reach the battlefields of France. I was surprised that the journey across the channel was cut from the plot in favour of more time on the farm.

It is a beautifully shot film throughout. They even managed to see some sun on Dartmoor! It's definitely worth seeing at the cinema for the sweeping landscapes and the atmospheric scenes of war. The corn field was beautiful and no-man's land sinister. My only gripe is that they seem to have borrowed CSI Miami's orange filters for the ending.

Whilst the human acting may come across as a little twee at times, the equine acting was impressive. It's not just about tricks and I dare you not to read into Joey's expression when he's hitched to the heavy artillery. The trainers deserve to win some awards for this. I can't work out if some bits were CGI or not, it's certainly harrowing when Joey gets caught up in barbed wire.

There are moments of humour amongst the doom and gloom too. At moments the whole cinema laughed which is rare even when the film is supposedly a comedy. I think it does a great job of breaking the tension in a film with a serious theme.

There were some children in the audience and no one had to be carried out crying. However I think an understanding of death and war would be required before sitting down to watch. War Horse is a children's book and Spielberg has kept this in mind when filming I think. Yes, people die, but he is careful to keep the death off camera, we see the before and after. I wouldn't go along expecting it to be a happy family film about horses.

The adaptation has stayed true to the heart and soul of War Horse and a reader can't ask for more than that.

War Horse will be out in UK cinemas on 13th January 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for directing me to your blog from mine, to read your review of the film. I am very keen on seeing the film now, which comes out in the UK on my birthday! Your review is great and I'm interested to read the bit where you say more focus is made on the farm and none of the journey to France which is a shame, but I'm sure I'll enjoy it nonetheless. Thanks again for your review.


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