STEVEN Spielberg’s grandiose equine saga WAR HORSE (12: Walt Disney) is an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser.
Following the critically acclaimed stage production, Spielberg’s adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 novel is a showcase for the director’s sure sense of storytelling and trademark visual flourishes.
This moving odyssey outlines the suffering of the First World War and the appalling loss of life, but it remains family-friendly.
Sold to the British army, thoroughbred Joey is captured by Germans and hidden by a French peasant, while tracked by the Devon farmer’s son (Jeremy Irvine) who trained and nurtured him.
The bond between the boy and the horse is so close that he refuses to give up on being reunited despite the animal passing through various owners on both sides as he travels across the battlefields of France.
Full of stirring spectacle and poignant moments, War Horse is lavish and gripping, if a little Disneyfied at times.
Although much of the story is knowingly designed to be a tear-jerker, particularly the final scenes shot against a burnished sunset, it would be wrong to doubt Spielberg’s sincerity.
> Set almost entirely in an abandoned warehouse, taut thriller FOUR (15: High Fliers) is a self-contained character piece, with the clue in the title.
A spurned husband (Craig Conway) hires a brutal private detective (Sean Pertwee) to kidnap and truss up his wife’s lover (Martin Compston) in order to scare him off.
But his best-laid plans go dangerously awry as he doesn’t realise that the detective has his own agenda, and his missus reveals a few secrets of her own.
It’s pressure-cooker stuff as the tempers of the quartet fray –with Kierston Wareing, previously seen in Fish Tank, terrific as the screaming harridan – and the situation starts to implode.
All of the performances are convincing, particularly Pertwee’s marvellously threatening turn, but ultimately it’s a slight tale for a feature film and is the type of story that could have been done just as well on TV.
> It’s a pity that police corruption drama THE SON OF NO ONE (15: Lionsgate) has so many flaws as some of the performances of its star-heavy cast are excellent.
Juliettte Binoche, almost unrecognisable and with a New York accent, is outstanding as a crusading newspaper reporter in a movie that maintains only a tenuous connection with reality.
The melodrama revolves around the guilty secret carried by Jonathan White (Channing Tatum), a 30-year-old police officer married with a daughter, who’s assigned to the precinct – a nightmarish jungle on the verge of explosion – where he grew up with his grandmother.
In his precinct house, presided over by Captain Mathers (Ray Liotta), fights break out, suspects are abused and chaos reigns.
The story repeatedly and irritatingly zigzags between 2002 and 1986, when Jonathan killed two drug addicts while his best friend, Vinny, looked on. He persuaded Vinny to vow lifelong secrecy about what he had seen.
The detective in charge of the case (Al Pacino), who had been the police partner of Jonathan’s father, quietly allowed the case to remain unsolved.
All had been forgotten until journalist Loren Bridges (Binoche) starts receiving anonymous letters accusing the police of covering up the crime.
The film finally self-destructs in a ludicrous and anticlimactic rooftop showdown in which bodies pile up and nothing makes a shred of sense.
> Fast-paced thriller TRANSIT (15: G2 Pictures) sees a family on a camping trip get caught up with a gang of merciless bank robbers.
The Sidwells, led by dad Nate (Jim Caviezel) and his wife Robyn (Elisabeth Rohm), embark on the holiday that they hope will bring them closer together.
But the robbers stash millions of dollars in the Sidwells’ camping gear to get it through a police block and the family have to work as a team if they are to survive the criminals’ attempts to retrieve the money.
> British horror comedy STRIPPERS VS WEREWOLVES (15: Kaleidoscope) features Steven Berkoff, Robert Englund and Martin Kemp.
When werewolf chief Jack Ferris (Billy Murray) is accidentally killed by a dancer in a London strip joint, the girls who work there have until the next full moon before his bloodthirsty wolfpack descends to seek retribution.