I’ve written about my love for Michael Morpurgo on numerous occasions and in particular the gorgeous War Horse which I’ve been lucky enough to both read and see the play. Now, at last, I’ve watched the film.
Essentially the strapline to this film could have been “War Horse : IT’S TIME TO CRY AND WEEP AT FUTILITY AND NOBILITY AND PONIES AND STUFF”
Now I do realise that not everybody may approach this film from the same angle of PONIES and with a brain that melts into mush at Noble Deeds Being Done By Noble People. It’s terribly schmaltzy in places and it’s very idealised. The opening part of the film is sort as if Richard Curtis’ vision of London has been simply transposed onto the West Country.
Regardless of this, the film is very lyrically shot. It’s quite beautifully framed in places, and the editing is superb. Spielberg, for all his occasional hamminess, is a master of visual construction. Certain shots, like the moment at the windmill, are superb and also quite poetical. There’s a fluidity to Spielberg’s storytelling here that is very very gorgeous.
But oh God, this film made me cry. It made me sob and sob and sob. The horse(s?) they got to play Joey is/are superb. And the whole No Man’s Land scene? Amazing. Awful, amazing, awful, amazing.
I think if you’re caught by this story in the first place, you’re caught. You’re caught whether Joey grows up in page, stage or film and each version of War Horse has both merits and faults. For me, although I loved the film, it’s the play. The play wins . It’s magic. Pure theatrical magic.
(And, if you missed it, here’s the best part of the Jubilee featuring Joey on top of the roof of the National Theatre).