Private Peaceful (12A) 100 mins **
It’s becoming apparent that writer Michael Morpurgo isn’t best served by the cinema. After the wearyingly sentimental War Horse comes this modest, makeshift teatime TV movie, which hasn’t the resources to do Spielbergian spectacle: its Great War is formed of two explosions in a field in Norfolk and John Lynch as an incessantly shouting sergeant-major. On the other end of Lynch’s ire: the fresh-faced Peaceful brothers (George Mackay and Jack O’Connell), fated by surname to become the nicest, humblest working-class lads ever packed off to the Front.
Veteran director Pat O’Connor must have been taking notes during the earlier film: all dappled sunlight, oaky interiors, horses and parades, it’s like a village-hall adaptation where Morpurgo’s class conflict has been toned down so as not to alarm the parson. Will the Peaceful boys shoot a nice doggy-woggy at the behest of scenery-chewing landowner Richard Griffiths? No spoilers here. Its destiny is matinee screenings quarter-full with napping nostalgics, dreaming of simpler times – even then, you don’t for a minute believe they were ever this simple.
Private Peaceful opens in selected cinemas from today.