"“There is certainly an argument posed for this to be presented as a television drama in favour of a cinematically-released feature film...”"

Private Peaceful is the second Michael Morpurgo novel to be adapted this year following on from the Oscar-nominated War Horse. And although we may be back in the familiar territory that is World War One – Pat O'Connor's adaptation is lacking somewhat in the grand scale and budget of Spielberg's hit feature. However, fortunately there are less sad horses in this one.

Set in Devon, we follow the upbringing of mischievous brothers Charlie (Jack O'Connell) and Tommo Peaceful (George MacKay) who live with their mother Hazel (Maxine Peake) following the untimely death of their father. The brothers are best friends as well as siblings, although they both happen to fall for the same girl – and longstanding friend – Molly (Alexandra Roach).

As well as both vying for her affections, the pair have big life decisions to make as the First World War breaks lose, and as young men, the call of duty awaits – particularly for the elder Charlie, who had since lost his job working for the Colonel (Richard Griffiths). Tommo, however, is underage, but his need for acceptance and pride tempt him to join the army, as the brothers face the daunting prospect of leaving their idyllic home – and Molly - for somewhere rather more precarious and life-threatening. 

Private Peaceful feels like two separate films, with the turning point coming when Charlie and Tommo are no longer portrayed as children – played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin and Samuel Bottomley respectively - but of young men. The change is dramatic, as the first half of the feature is somewhat pensive and more based around family dynamics and social class. The second half, however, is a full on war film.

The drastic change in pace captures the very change in the boys lives, and how people did genuinely go from tranquillity and normality, to suddenly finding themselves strapped with weapons and on the battlefield. O'Connor poignantly reflects such a forceful modification in a young man's life well, as the tone and overall atmosphere of the feature changes succinctly. Such a message is also portrayed from a visual sense, as the scenes in Devon and brightly lit and colourful, while at war the mise-en-scene is far darker, and grittier. As a result we do get a sense for the futility of war, although no matter how hard anyone tries, the First World War will rarely be portrayed with as much sincerity than it was in British sitcom Blackadder.

The performances across the board are impressive, as O'Connell – as per usual – stands out from the crowd. Faultless as always, it's refreshing to see the talented young British actor take on somewhat of a different role to the mindless thug we often see him present. Although, even in a film set in the early 20th century he still manages to play a cheeky, insubordinate juvenile.

Meanwhile the film – despite its positives – is mostly forgettable on the whole, and there is certainly an argument posed for this to be presented as a television drama in favour of a cinematically-released feature film. However to end on a more positive note – there is a whole host of rather wonderful moustaches on display. That in itself is worth a gander, surely.