Today: February 25, 2024
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Private Peaceful

By – Christa Ktorides – Hot on the heels of Steven Spielberg’s luxurious and moving adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse

By – Christa Ktorides

Hot on the heels
of Steven Spielberg’s luxurious and moving adaptation of Michael
Morpurgo’s War Horse comes this smaller, more intimate tale of devoted
brothers Charlie and Tommo set in rural Devon and the trenches of the Great
War.
Their love of the
same woman and the onset of war with Germany tests their loyalty to the limit
and end with one of them facing a firing squad.

Private Peaceful begins with Tommo Peaceful (George Mackay, no stranger to the
trenches after his role in BBC1’s Birdsong),
now a private in the British army, as he languishes in an military jail.
Flashbacks shed light on how he came to be there and on his relationship with
his protective older brother Charlie (Skins star Jack O’Connell).

Pat O’Connor‘s film is unsurprisingly low budget in
comparison with Spielberg’s epic but there is much to enjoy about this slim
tale of sibling love and rivalry. Not least Jack O’Connell’s searingly
charismatic performance as the older brother Charlie. O’Connell manages to make
a lot from a fairly one dimensional protective brother role. That’s not to say
that George Mackay doesn’t impress as the spirited, lovelorn Tommo, haunted by
a tragic accident from his past.

The
adults, bar the ever-dependable Maxine
Peake
, put in some cartoonish turns. Richard Griffiths’ toffee-nosed retired Colonel is a Colonel
Blimp caricature we’ve seen too many times before. Similarly, John Lynch‘s pointlessly mean Sergeant
Hanle is too sneeringly cruel and Frances De La Tour is gloriously unsympathetic as Peake’s aunt
and the object of Griffiths’ affections.

The
Great War itself is almost a sideline to the melodrama of the boys’ teenage
rivalry for the affections of childhood friend Molly (Alexandra Roach, last seen convincingly playing a young Margaret
Thatcher in The Iron Lady).
Budgetary constraints often mean that the film feels more like a quality TV
drama than a cinematic feature but it’s a moving portrayal of family loyalty
and love in the face of the horror and hypocrisy of war.

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