Private Peaceful (2 stars)

Private Peaceful

Lacklustre adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel

This adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel has a tough act to follow, telling a story that takes place in the same setting as War Horse (rural England during the First World War), the Morpurgo classic that was recently adapted in sweeping style by Steven Spielberg. Director Pat O’Connor (Circle of Friends, Dancing at Lughnasa) tells his story with pace and passion, but there’s no escaping the fact that Private Peaceful looks and feels like a made-for-TV drama, without much thought given to making it visually interesting, let alone dynamic or cinematic.
The story follows the relationship between Tommo Peaceful (George MacKay) and his older brother Charlie (Jack O’Connell) from their carefree childhood in the countryside, though the tragic death of their father and their rivalry over bewitching local girl Molly (Alexandra Roach), to the coming of the Great War and the brothers’ fateful decision to sign up and go to the front. O’Connor’s background in solid character dramas is evident in the way that he skilfully pulls out the strongest threads from debut screenwriter Simon Reade’s adaptation, and the scenes between the teenage Charlie, Tommo and naturally and effectively convey the shifting dynamics of their relationships. In a cast of varying quality O’Connell (television’s Skins) is the stand-out, bringing nuance and depth to Charlie and making him the film’s most relatable and interesting character. But even given these strengths, there isn’t enough that’s vital or fresh about Private Peaceful to make it noteworthy.

Selected release from Fri 12 Oct.

Private Peaceful

  • 2 stars
  • 2012
  • UK
  • 1h 40min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Pat O'Connor
  • Written by: Simon Reade, Michael Morpurgo (novel)
  • Cast: George MacKay, Jack O'Connell, Alexandra Roach
  • UK release: 12 October 2012

Tommo and Charlie Peaceful are two brothers who make the fateful decision to sign up to the British Army during WWI. O'Connor directs his actors with skill, but it's visually uninteresting and lacks vitality. Spielberg's War Horse, similarly themed and also adapted from Michael Morpurgo, is a tough act to follow.