Trailer Tuesday: War Horse

What would the festive season be without a glossy, tear-jerking epic? Well, Christmas 2011 sees the release of the latest from Steven Spielberg, whose last stint in the director's chair was back in 2008, for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

War Horse, however, is a very different kind of movie from the supernatural action escapism of the Indy series. Rather, the new family-friendly adventure seems to sit more comfortably alongside the likes of war-centric Saving Private Ryan and well, I suppose E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to a tiny degree, given its similar focus on the emotional bond between a young man and creature. War Horse is based on the 1982 youth novel of the same name, and in turn its multi-award winning stage adaptation, which is notable for its use of life-size horse puppets.

Set before and during World War I, the plot of War Horse sees British farm boy Albert (Jeremy Irvine) separated from his beloved horse Joey, when the animal is shipped off to France for the British War effort. While Albert - who is too young to enlist in the army - hatches a dangerous scheme to be reunited with Joey, the horse has many amazing adventures. Joey touches lives wherever he goes, whether that's through serving on the British AND German Front Lines, wandering into the lives of French civilians or galloping alone through the mud, bullets and barbed wire of No Man's Land.

The cast of War Horse also includes Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston. Meanwhile, British screenwriters and playwrights Richard (Four Weddings and a Funeral) Curtis and Lee (Billy Elliot) Hall have worked on adapting the source material.

I seriously doubt that War Horse will be subtle. With its stirring John Williams score and haunting visuals of a horse dodging death, the film is hellbent on squeezing an emotional response from the viewer. I don't even particularly like horses and the trailer above still left me horribly upset. I know I'm going to blub the whole way through this one, on tenterhooks the entire time about who - animal and human - is going to survive.

I think it's safe to say that we can already file War Horse alongside Forrest Gump in the filmmaking category of "Emotionally Manipulative Crowd-pleaser." Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. I lap up this kind of stuff so I'll certainly be watching War Horse at the cinema on opening week, tissues in hand.

The major reason to get excited about War Horse though is the film's World War I focus, and the fact that the devastating Great War is finally going to be given a big budget special effects and staging treatment. There really haven't been enough World War I films, frankly, although the limited amount of American WWI involvement, AND the unrelentingly grim nature of the trench warfare, may be reasons for that.

War Horse opens in North America on Christmas Day, 25 December. The film's South African release date has yet to be announced, but I imagine it will be around the same time, or early 2012.

Coincidentally the Spielberg-directed, CGI-animated The Adventures of Tintin (Trailer Tuesday profile here) opens in the US on 21 December. This means the helmer will have new 2 movies releasing within the same week. And now you know.


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