Mixed bag from Spielberg

"WAR HORSE"''DM-AC-00047''Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his horse Joey are featured in this scene from DreamWorks Pictures' "War Horse", director Steven Spielberg's epic adventure for audiences of all ages, set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War.''Ph: Andrew Cooper, SMPSP''�DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC. �All Rights Reserved.
"WAR HORSE"''DM-AC-00047''Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his horse Joey are featured in this scene from DreamWorks Pictures' "War Horse", director Steven Spielberg's epic adventure for audiences of all ages, set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War.''Ph: Andrew Cooper, SMPSP''�DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC. �All Rights Reserved.

IT’S already nabbed two Golden Globe nominations and is directed by one of the biggest names in film history.

But for those who aren’t in the know, and haven’t read the book, and didn’t know it was a highly successful West End production: War Horse really is a story about a horse.

In fact, it’s a very personal journey and in the manner of Black Beauty, largely dependent on a silent, equine point-of-view.

Personally, the appeal is lost on me – I don’t hold with first-person-animal stories, you couldn’t pay me to enjoy, say, Cats and Dogs, for instance.

But that clearly is no comparison and I have to admit this is a story that people of all ages and from all nations can understand.

The story deals with the relationship between Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his horse, Joey.

In short, Albert’s father (Peter Mullan) buys a horse, Albert falls in love with it, WWI begins, the horse is sold to Captain Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston), and Albert decides to enlist so he can find his horse and keep him safe.

Meanwhile, poor old Joey is passed from person to person in a sentimental stretch of episodic interludes which follow the horse’s life story.

There’s no question that in the hands of Spielberg, War Horse is lifted from its original state and twisted into an atmospheric melodrama for the screen.

Spielberg finds his stride once he’s exploring the battlefields through the eyes of the eponymous horse.

Using Joey as a way to delve into big themes such as friendship, love, honour and loyalty, the story acknowledges the shocking loss of life during way but not just of humans, but animals worn down from carrying soldiers and heavy artillery.

In reality the whole affair is overlong, painfully earnest and you can’t get away from it’s slightly corny boy-and-his-horse origins.

But clearly Spielberg intended War Horse to be an homage to good, old-fashioned, heart-rending storytelling, and that is something he undoubtedly achieves.

Propelled by his name and much acclaim, War Horse will undoubtedly translate into major rewards at the box office.