War Horse: "Wherever You Are, I Will Find You And I Will Bring You Home"

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer:    Richard Curtis
               Lee Hall
Starring: Jeremy Irvine
               Emily Watson
               Peter Mullan
               Tom Hiddleston
               David Thewlis
               Benedict Cumberbatch
               Toby Kebbell
               Eddie Marsan
               Niels Arestrup 
Rating:    ****

Release Date: 13/01/12 

Steven Spielberg has returned, and this time he is racing alongside all the other possible award winners for this year. It is a wonderful mix of emotion and spectacle, and what is so marvellous is Spielberg's amazing way of turning Joey, the horse, into a wonderfully in depth character and still show the devastation of the First World War without it feeling contrived.

War Horse centres on Devon boy Albert (Irvine) as he raises foal Joey to help plough fields and keep his out-of-luck parents' (Mullan & Watson) farm from falling into the hands of landlord Lyons (Thewlis). As the First World War breaks out, Joey is drafted into the cavalry by Captain Nicholls (Hiddleston) and embarks on an epic journey that takes him into the hands of two AWOL soldiers, a young French girl and her grandfather (Arestrup), and the German army before a miraculous and touching break for freedom.

Spielberg's film really picks up the pace as we start to see the epic battlefields and settings from the eyes of the beautiful stallion. Using Joey to really delve into the big themes such as friendship, love, honour and loyalty, even respectfully acknowledging the upset caused by the loss of life, not just people but also other horses fighting against the elements.

Terrific performances from the ensemble cast also add to the film, allowing the mainly British cast, including Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Marsan, to really show what they're made of and bring the film to a whole new level. However it is newcomer Irvine who provides the solid centre, coming of age story when Albert is pushed onto the front lines to experience a battle that unfolds right before his and out eyes.

Joey, the horse, is the one truly at the heart of what can only be described as a breathtaking set piece, a sweeping run across the perilous No Man's Land that leads to a moving scene between the Geordie soldier (Kebbell) and a German counterpart. This is also one of the moments where the writers, probably Richard Curtis, get to inject a bit of comedy into the script, during the tender but comical scene between the German, Geordie and horse.

Of course the music just adds even more emotion and heart to the film, building you up and really bringing the performances out and tugging on the audiences heartstrings. Occasionally it becomes more about the emotions from the audience and less about the performances, but when it's up on the big screen it doesn't matter and by then you are already invested in what is happening.

War Horse is also a timely reminder of how versatile Spielberg really is when directing. So soon after the exhilarating blockbuster The Adventures of Tintin, he delivers a brilliantly made drama that really plays with your feelings. Also 2011 marks the director's third big career double release after 93's Jurassic Park/Schindler's List release and 05's War of the Worlds/Munich. It just goes to show that even in his sixties, Spielberg certainly isn't lacking inspiration.  

Now while War Horse may not reach the heights of his career pinnacle, it most definitely is a gripping and emotional tale about love and loss that will inspire and move audiences to no end. It is fair to say that Spielberg isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and if this is anything to go by, then we still have years of superb blockbusters to come, and I for one cannot wait.

War Horse - Trailer