Steven Spielberg has created a supreme movie adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's childrens book about a boy (Albert) and his horse (Joey) during the period of WW1.
The story begins in Devon when Albert's father purchases the horse as a matter of drunken pride against his landlord at an auction, the problem being that he should be buying a horse to work the plough on his farm and Joey at first appearances does not suit that kind of work.
Albert's father and mother believe buying the horse is a serious error but Albert pursuades them to allow him to keep Joey and train him, the initial period of the film sets up the relationship between boy and horse and lays the platform for the incredible story which follows.
Janusz Kaminski has done a tremendous job as his camerawork captures the beauty of the Dartmoor landscape and the bleakness of no mans land in the battlefields of northern France. There has been some criticism about the final scenes of the movie but I think it's a perfect ending to an exciting and emotional story.
What also helps War Horse elevate from a good film into a great film is Spielberg's continuing collaboration with John Williams to create the score, in some scenes when Williams music kicks in you get a lump in the throat and the tears well up.
The cast is a catalogue of British talent which features the likes of Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Marsan and Tom Hiddleston. However, it was newcomer Jeremy Irvine and Niels Arestrup who captured my attention the most.
Irvine, in his first major role, is exceptional in the role of Albert who when we first meet him is an innocent farmboy but as the film progresses finds an inner steel hidden within him which reveals itself due to his loyalty to Joey.
Arestrup is heartbreaking as the elderly French farmer who illustrates the damage war causes to families caught up in the middle of it.
I must admit the true stars of the movie have to be the horses trained to create the role of Joey, they carry the film without a problem and full credit has to go to Bobby Lovgren and his team for creating a believable character. *FACT* One of the horses (Finder) that played Joey also played Seabiscuit, so not his first equine acting role :D
War Horse runs at over 2 hours but it doesn't feel like it as the story sweeps you along and Spielberg does a great job of not making any moment feel wasted. Credit is well deserved too as Spielberg captures the horrors of WW1 whilst not forgetting the movie is aimed at a family audience, also I believe it's impact is stronger due to it's less is more attitude.
I've seen it twice at the cinema and cannot wait for it to be released on blu ray, I just hope that the blu ray release has plenty of extras which show how this magnificent production was put together.
Thank you to Kathleen Kennedy for telling Mr Spielberg about War Horse as this film is just perfect and sits alongside his best work.