Matt Adcock’s film review: War Horse

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Hello horse fans, you join us for the first marathon World War One big screen steeplechase – the going is good to firm but bogged down with far too many soggy areas…

Soft-hearted billionaire director Spielberg turns this children’s novel/hit play into a long-winded film and crafts a lavish but oddly pedestrian ode to possibly the bravest equine ever.

Spielberg’s film are mostly viewed as cinematic phenomena but War Horse is a bit of a hard sell after it has been worked up with plenty of sentimentality by the likes of Richard ‘Four Weddings’ Curtis.

Yes, the cinematography is gorgeous and there are a couple of exciting scenes including a stunning cavalry charge thanks to the setting but my son – who had read the book and was keen to see the film – actually fell asleep about half way through.

So why is War Horse slightly lame rather than the epic thoroughbred it could, and should, have been?

It’s certainly not the fault of the lead horse Joey – you’d be hard pressed to find a nobler looking or engaging nag and if they ever gave Oscars to animals he’d be a dead cert to bag one.

Nor really can the blame for the dramatic flatness be totally shouldered by the competent cast.

What is missing here is the ability of the film to actually connect and make you care more than mildly about anything you’re witnessing.

Joey’s odyssey from humble farm beginnings through to messianic wartime icon certainly had the potential to send shivers down the viewers spines and grab their imaginations, so it’s hard to explain quite why the overall reaction isn’t better.

I found the best scene to be the no-man’s-land sequence where a British and a German soldier work together to free Joey from barbed wire.

It really stands out because it feels less ‘forced’ than the most of the other scenes.

Eventually the clunky plot limps along to the very Hollywood conclusion, which leaves those audience members who are still awake with a lump in their throats and probably a newfound desire to buy a pony.

This War Horse should have been a cinematic thoroughbred but it falls short in a blub of sentimentality.

Overall it’s decent enough but not a classic. Maybe Spielberg’s forthcoming Robopocalypse will deliver