Film Review: War Horse

War Horse is a saccharine tale that comes across as most old fashioned. Those who buy into it will be charmed, although others may not be as impressed.

After his father buys Joey, Albert Narracott decides to train the horse to plough, despite the animal’s unsuitability. The pair have a bond, and Albert is distraught when Joey is sold to the calvary at the outbreak of World War I. Albert enlists, and travels throughout Europe as a soldier, taking a different path to Joey…

At almost two and a half hours, War Horse‘s running time is really felt at times during the course of the film. Due to the film’s sentimentality, it seems as if certain sections run a little too long. War Horse is by no means painful viewing, but it would have been more enjoyable with a shorter run time.

The dominant theme of friendship and companionship is unmistakably earnest. However, the theme veers into schmaltzy territory, which can become exasperating for viewers who do not buy into the film. Although War Horse appears to be a tear-jerker from the trailer, it does not quite tug at the heart strings as expected. Instead, the film tells a nice story, rather than an overly emotional one. Nice is in fact a good word to describe the film, with all the positive and negative connotations the term holds.

War Horse is a visually sumptuous film. The orange-bathed lighting in final shots is rather gratuitous, but scenery is finely captured otherwise. There is a handful of amazing shots, which really exhibit Steven Spielberg’s directing talent. Despite the war setting, there is little actual violence depicted on screen.

Performances in the film vary. Jeremy Irvine is a suitable lead as Albert, while Tom Hiddleston delivers a fine performance as Captain Nicholls. Playing German boy Gunther, David Kross’ accent is patchy. Praise should be given to the animal trainers who have done a fantastic job with Joey and the other horses.

War Horse will be dull to some and immensely satisfying to others. Those who are aware of the premise of the film should have few surprises.