Brian Henry Martin at the movies

War Horse

Published Friday, 13 January 2012
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Spielberg rides again...

After the recent disappointment of a few donkey movies, director Steven Spielberg gallops back onto the big screen with a cinematic stallion in War Horse.

In the history of cinema Steven Spielberg is regarded by many as Hollywood's greatest film director.

Certainly he is the most successful, with his movies in a forty year career grossing more than $8.5 billion worldwide.

He made us all afraid to go back into the water with Jaws, compelled us to watch the night skies for extraterrestrials in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and excited us with the thrills and spills of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

However in recent years, I have been disappointed with the maestro's bloated films, the director who invented the blockbuster, now seemed to be busting only $100 million budgets with overblown yawns.

This includes last year's The Adventures of Tintin, which despite all its cutting-edge motion capture technology felt more like Indiana Bare-Bones and the Kingdom of the Lost Plot!

What had happened to Hollywood's great storyteller?

The director who in the same year, 1993, made us leap out of our seats with Jurassic Park and weep in the aisles with Schlinder's List.

Thankfully Spielberg's new film is not an 'also ran', but a sure fire winner. Place your bets for both critical and commercial success on War Horse.

It tells the heart-warming story of enduring love between a country boy, Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his remarkable horse Joey, set against the backdrop of World War One.

War Horse began as a children's novel by British author Michael Morpurgo in 1982, then became an innovative and award winning stage play in 2007 and now strides into our cinemas as an epic movie.

This could have been a nightmare but Spielberg keeps the story grounded as quintessentially British; the most of important of which is the British scriptwriters Lee Hall (Billy Elliott) and Richard Curtis (Four Weddings And A Funeral). This is just a rollicking great story.

Perhaps, this is what Spielberg's films have been missing for the last ten years?

War Horse combines the very best of his filmmaking talents; the breathtaking battle sequences on the Normandy beaches of Saving Private Ryan with the emotional punch of a little boy's love for a stranded alien in E.T.

The undoubted star of this film is the wonderfully expressive horse, which now proudly joins the celebrated stable of Black Beauty, Champion and Mister Ed.

Horses are majestic animals that simply work beautifully on the big screen.

The most American of all film genres is the Western, which were also known as 'horse operas'. War Horse may not be a Western, but it is set on the Western Front and has all the grand drama and heightened emotion of an opera.

As ever in Spielberg's movies, just when you think the action can't get more saccharine, composer John Williams adds his gushy score.

But you know, there was a time when people paid to go to the cinema for a good old cry. This wasn't doom and gloom, but a strangely uplifting sentimental experience.

War Horse is a film to bring the family and the tissues to.

War Horse (Cert 12a) is on general release from Friday 13th January

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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