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War Horse

Robyn Morrison reviews Steven Spielberg’s epic motion picture War Horse...

Hearing rave reviews for the dramatic production of War Horse at the National Theatre, it was quite clear that Steven Spielberg had his work cut out to produce a film that lived up to the expectations built by its success.

The story follows the life of a horse named Joey, his friendship with Albert, the young man who tames and trains him and his journey through the First World War as he touches the lives of those he meets from British cavalry and German Soldiers to a French farmer and his granddaughter.

Originally based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo, the media hype surrounding the big screen release had compelled me to read the book before seeing the film, which meant it now had to compare to the version of characters and events already painted in my head.

Using a style similar to that of Black Beauty, Spielberg builds a strong emotional tie to the characters from the beginning, narrating the film through the eyes of Joey, which makes the dramatic action scenes in the film almost unbearably gripping.

Although, in my opinion, slightly corny in parts, Spielberg and the screenwriters have triumphed transforming this story from the theatre into a successful big screen production.

War Horse is a story that pulls on the heartstrings so it is easy to see why the Duchess of Cambridge was fighting back the tears at its premier.

Knowing that a famous name would detract from the central character of Joey, Spielberg has chosen a virtually unknown actor, Jeremy Irvine to play Albert, keeping the attention on the central characters and story with a performance I felt was Oscar-worthy.

As a formula used in films such as Black Beauty, Lassie and Sea Biscuit to name a few, I thought the age old narrative of a working class youngster building a strong emotional attachment to an animal would be
predictable, but War Horse goes beyond the ‘boy and his horse’ scenario into a powerful and compelling film.

War Horse deserves to stand alongside E.T., Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan as Spielberg’s finest work, a classic that you must see at least once and a story that I believe will live long after its cinematic release.