An amateur teenage English football team all sign up to fight in World War 1, much to the despair of their families. Whilst they believe, due to propaganda and peer pressure, that the war will be a bit of a lark, the reality is vastly different, consisting of trenches, terrible food and the possibility of death at every second. However, one Christmas in the trenches, an impromptu football game breaks out between the English and the German soldiers.
At only 28 1/2 minutes long, I was debating the inclusion of this animated short within my journey through Kate Winslet’s career. I’ve opted to ignore the TV work she did as a child in shows like Shrinks, Dark Season, Anglo Saxon Attitudes, Get Back and one episode of Casualty – a requirement for any British actor, but I included the TV movie Pride. War Game was something I’d never come across before, and I’m shocked I wasn’t shown it in a History lesson at school, although perhaps when we covered the First World War my fellow pupils and I could perhaps have been slightly too old to appreciate this short.
Here, Winslet is the only recognisable voice amongst a cast of otherwise unknowns or know-the-face actors (there’s also the voices of Colin McFarlane, the police commissioner from The Dark Knight, and Adam Godley, one of the singing teachers from Love, Actually). Winslet plays both the mother and sister of two of the boys signing up to fight, and neither character is best pleased. Winslet seems an odd fit for the cast, as at this point she had already received two Oscar nominations (Sense and Sensibility, Titanic) and had made a name for herself as something of a ‘name’, yet here she has practically nothing to do.
In terms of story, there isn’t a lot going on here either. The boys sign up – one out of recklessness, another to protect the first, and a third because he doesn’t want to be left out – discover the harshness of war, briefly think everything will be OK, before realisation dawns with a hail of bullets the next day. As harrowing as the ending was – this isn’t a feel-good film – it was preferable to what I’d initially thought it might be. The early scenes depict war as something all young men should wish to partake in, and there’s even a brief musical number from an enlistment poster, singing “Play the game, play the game!” So I’d assumed this might even be a modern form of propaganda, attempting to encourage the youth of today to sign up and join the army, but thankfully this i most definitely not the case.
The animation style is fairly simple and not very flashy. This fits the 1910s setting, and doesn’t distract from what’s going on, but it also left me unimpressed. I’m not expecting Pixar-levels of detail, but it’d help if all the characters didn’t have the same face. There are many better war films out there, but few suitable for younger viewers. As an educational tool I expect this would work fine, but as a film to appreciate, it doesn’t work for me.
Choose life 4/10