Private Peaceful (12A)
Another Great War fable, another tale of rural lads ripped from the green fields of England to the Somme, another offering from Michael Morpurgo.
Yet from the outset Private Peaceful emerges as a poorer cousin to War Horse with cut-price battle scenes letting down the multi-layered storyline of chaste love, class divide, sibling rivalry and the senseless waste of trench warfare.
Tommo and Charlie Peaceful are Devon brothers thrust into the madness of World War I. The film is told largely in flashback as one of the brothers awaits the firing squad.
In a sense the constant to-ing and fro-ing of the plot fatally undermines this modest picture which lacks a focus and a sense of narrative direction. Some superb performers bolster the evidently meagre budget, not least John Lynch as a by-the-book NCO who sees Charlie’s freethinker as a dangerous commodity on the battlefield.
The brothers’ personal conflict and the wider milieu in which they find themselves throw up loose comparisons with The Fighting 69th and Kubrick’s Paths of Glory but whilst they survive in Morpurgo’s novel they struggle to find a resonance in the film.
Jack O’Connell and George MacKay are perfectly acceptable as the boys forced into adulthood amidst the mud and blood of a far-off war but the movie suffers from a Children’s Film Foundation feel and never truly hits the heights.