Sunday 30 September 2018

Film Review: War Horse, 2012

Yes, it's a bit chocolate box, in its depiction of rural England, and the plot itself is a total fantasy. But we have always needed such comforting stories, and Spielberg - at his best - can really do this sort of thing superbly well. The film reeks of classic '70s/'80s Saturday afternoon matinee blockbluster entertainment, steeped in a huge dose of sloppy sentimentalism. It could be nauseating - and some reviewers clearly find it so - but I love it.

I'm a big reader of military history, albeit mostly Napoleonic and WWII, as opposed to WWI. The role of horses in the Napoleonic era, and the immense numbers killed by everything from cannonballs to overwork and starvation, or to feed starving humans - it could be pretty plausibly argued that the loss of horses during the 1812 campaign in Russia signalled the end of the Napoleonic era - has always fascinated me. I love horses, and they've been such a big part of the human story. So to see a film like this that celebrates and critiques our relationship with them is great.

I haven't read Morpugo's book, nor seen any stage versions of this. Having just watched this does make me wish I'd seen it at the cinema when it came out. I resisted it, however, 'cause I think modern mainstream cinema is, by and large, pants. Sure, this is cornball entertainment, on some levels, but it's also a moving story beautifully told. I cried like a baby at numerous points. Perhaps not seeing this in a cinema was sensible after all? So, I found it very cathartic, which is an appealing feature of a well done blockbuster.

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