Young Black Stallion

on December 25, 2003 by Bridget Byrne
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Like the subject of the story, this film is swift and beautiful, knows where it's going and how to get there fast.

Its plot is not complicated--lovely young girl suffers misadventure, meets horse, bonds with horse, loses horse, horse finds her again, they re-bond to fulfill dreams for herself and family. Wisely, the screenwriters don't push for excessive sentiment or fake dramatic twists. By keeping it simple, with just the minimum of rather labored dialogue, they allow the focus to fall almost totally on what works best--the visuals.

The IMAX format embraces the gorgeous stark topography of the desert sand and rocks, the gleam and sinew of the magnificent Arab horses, the character in the faces of the supporting character actors, and the lovely grace and dignity of Biana G. Tamimi as the young girl, Neera, who rides the wild young black stallion, Shetan, to glory.

Director Simon Wincer, who has done fine work with animals before in the horse racing saga "Phar Lap" and the aquatic tale "Free Willy," as well as handling the scope of the Western miniseries "Lonesome Dove," allows the horse its full range of screen time. He knows who the title star is and shows us why. Unlike this year's feature-length horse movie "Seabiscuit," in which the title animal got short shrift compared to the actors, this glorious steed is allowed to display some personality along with looks and athleticism. This can be no easy task to accomplish when you clearly have to use more than one horse to fulfill all the requirements of the role, but Wincer has pulled it off. He has also created a race sequence so exciting that even the most jaded adult, anticipating the obvious winner, gets caught up in the moment. (It's almost a good as re-watching tapes of the great Triple Crown winner Secretariat: Even though the result has been in the record books for years, the heart still pounds as he races down the stretch.)

But Wincer still allows for plenty of time to display the charm of Tamimi, who does enough skillful riding to make the cuts to stunt doubles at moments of extreme action barely perceptible. Although she doesn't have to do much acting, and the lines she is given are somewhat stilted, she has real presence, and a face really worthy of a big--in this case very big--screen. She even looks good when stuck on top of a camel, no easy task--but it's on the horse that she truly shines. Starring Richard Romanus and Biana G. Tamimi. Directed by Simon Wincer. Written by Jeanne Rosenberg. Produced by Fred Roos and Frank Marshall. A Buena Vista release. Adventure/Large-Format. Rated G. Running time 45 min

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