Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Mane Attraction [Review: War Horse]

As actors and other film talent jockey for position in the final sprint to the Oscars, spur a thought for Joey the Horse. There’s still no category at either the BAFTAs or the Oscars for animals, so despite an inspiring performance, the team of fourteen horses that played Joey have neigh chance even of a photo finish. These Hay-class celebrities deserve at least a nomination – personally I wouldn’t saddle for anything less.

Joey seems to accept his fate stoically one minute, but pull off yet another ingenious escape the next: so War Horse both is and is not science fiction. War Horse also echoes many previous Spielberg films – it’s E.T. with horses! No, it’s Saving Private Ryan with horses! Indiana Jones with horses! I could be imagining this but the whole film has kind of a horsey feel to it.

However, there is some greatness in this film, including the war scenes which bring home many of the horrific realities of the First World War. It's really a series of short war films, linked together by Joey’s journey. Some are tragic, like the German soldiers, still boys really, who run away with Joey and hide in a windmill but are caught by their superiors, while others are surreal and funny, such as the Christmas Truce-like scene in which English and German soldiers follow Joey into No-Man’s Land. Sometimes there’s too much reliance on sentimentality or serendipity but rather than dominating the whole film, they are balanced out by the tragedies and the realism at other times.

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