Opening 16 Feb 2012
Writing credits: Lee Hall, Richard Curtis, Michael Morpurgo
Principal actors: Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, Emily Watson, Niels Arestrup, David Thewlis
Here’s an epic that seems to have everything, starting with a multi-talented director (Steven Spielberg), a lesson in history, emotional moving scenes, humor, tragic moments and an animal story – and yet there is a feeling of something missing in this film. From the moment the thoroughbred colt Joey was born, young Albert (Jeremy Irvin) has been watching him grow into a powerful and wonderfully willful creature. This film has its déjà vu moment where we are reminded of films like National Velvet or Black Beauty. The scene is set and is beautifully filmed. When auction day arrives, Albert’s father, an ex-military man, sees the remarkable qualities in this willful creature and makes the mistake of buying him instead of the much needed draught horse. His wife is furious, and he is the laughing stock of the community. But despite the misgiving of the rest of the community, Joey and trainer Albert pull through the first of many hard tests. Unfortunately due to a bad crop, he has to be sold, and off to war he goes.
Spielberg reveals the brutal history and circumstances under which these horses had to perform and die in order to serve in war, a story that has not ever been a focus of a movie before. There are amazing and grotesque scenes showing their plight where it’s hard to imagine for us just how they film these horses without violating the animal protection rules. Spielberg proves his point that we as people can sympathize with animal abuse and want the animals to survive but at the same time can ignore the horrors of war where human loss seems senseless but inevitable. It’s clear from the beginning that this is a Hollywood story and that Albert and Joey will be united, but unfortunately the final auction scenes are too dramatic and far fetched to the point of being corny, which is a shame since the message of this film is important one. (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)