Apparently after seeing the stage play in the UK, Spielberg fell in love with the tale of a boy and his horse and moved it onto his ever-growing slate of films to make.
At first glance, it may seem like an odd choice for the man who has moved away from his early films that were described by some as over-sentimental, sugar-coated and emotionally manipulative and who now swings between his "fun" side - The Adventures Of Tintin; Indiana Jones - and his "mature" side - Munich; Saving Private Ryan.
And for a long while, it does feel like an odd choice for various reasons. The main one is that it doesn't feel like a film that's got the stamp "Executive Producer" on it from Spielberg, let alone "Directed by." If you didn't know his name was on it you'd swear that someone else was behind the camera calling the shots. Now is that a bad thing? Yes, and no.
Characters under extreme circumstance has been the 'Berg's consistent and strong point throughout his career and here, it's business as usual. However, the characterisation - and following on from that, the usual connection that is then made from the audience - is put to the test as it's not on a human level as you're used to but, not surprisingly when you think of the title of the film, on the horse, Joey.
From the outset, the emotions are all squarely on Joey - from his wanting to interact with the boy Albert who would become his most loyal friend but being told off and kept away by his over-protective mother, through to the acts of friendship and bravery when Joey takes the place of another horse in pulling heavy German artillery up a hill. Most of the human cast don't get a look in when it comes to the raw, emotional scenes. Sure there is a touching friendship between Albert and his Samwise Gamgee-type mate who follows him into war to find the horse but all the human cast are fleeting things in the life of Joey as he tumbles from person to person, and then from side to side during the war.
It does start to feel like a soap opera when Joey is constantly taken by English, then German, then French and back and forth again throughout his war effort but the camera work and the music by regular composer Williams, glosses over that and keeps you transfixed to the screen. Infact, it's that combination that delivers a truly pulse-racing sequence that turns into shock and apprehension when Joey breaks free and runs away from the battle through the trenches, then into no-mans land and into the many barbed-wire fences strewn around. This arm-rest gripping segment then melds into a grin-inducing scene where hostilities are put on hold as tow soldiers - one from each side - try and save a brave horse that's in distress. It may even replace the Pipes Of Peace music video for most touching event during WWI.
So, with War Horse, fans of Spielberg will find themselves in a surprising situation - something new and different from what they're used to. It may feel a little strange and take some getting used to but in the end, just like his works before, you'll be glad you took your seat and watched it.
UK release date: 13.01.12