Steven Spielberg is no stranger to child/teen-centric cinema, and his latest film adapts a popular stage play about a boy, his horse, and the special friendship between them. Doesn’t quite sound like a family film, but I’m curious to see how the famed director utilizes the “Spielberg face” in the scene where the naked teen stabs the horse’s eyeball.

Wait. I think I have the wrong boy-and-his-horse movie based on a stage play…

War Horse is about a boy (Jeremy Irvine) who finds and befriends a horse in the English countryside. The animal is drafted during WWI and attempts to make a run for the Canadian border, but when the boy teaches it basic geography the horse begrudgingly boards a ship heading to the battlefields of France. The teen enters the fray in search of his trusty steed and probably becomes a man in the process.

One of my favorite films as a kid was Carroll Ballard’s The Black Stallion. It’s about a boy who finds himself shipwrecked on a desert island, alone except for a beautiful and wild black horse that had yet to be broken in by a rider. The film perfectly captured the boy’s yearning for adventure, his overwhelming loneliness, and the importance of friendship that knows no color boundaries. (That may not have been part of the film’s intent.) I’m hoping War Horse manages to find some of that same magic, but the trailer below appears more epic than personal. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Looks suitably epic, if a bit dry, and John Williams appears to have delivered another score that sounds very much like a John Williams score, but it’s difficult to tell at this point how engaging the film will be. It’s easy to find sympathy with an animal character displaying heroic and loyal qualities while under horrific danger, but we’ll need to care about the people too if the film is going to work. Irvine needs to sell the friendship at the heart of the film, and hopefully we’ll get a better look at his performance with the next full trailer.

The cast gathered around Irvine includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Toby Kebbell, Eddy Marsan, Peter Mullan, and more, so expect lots of authentic British accents.

War Horse escapes from the glue factory on December 28th, 2011.

What do you think of the trailer?


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