DIR: Louise Osmond
A group of working-class people in small-town Wales decide, under the leadership of charismatic local Annie, to enter into a sport which is usually reserved for the wealthy and upper-class – horse-racing. To this end the group pool their money together to afford training, etc. with the aim of entering Annie’s horse (Dream Alliance) in races. From there on, Dark Horse follows the classic sport’s movie narrative. The narrative ticks all the boxes – Dream Alliance rises to the top, competing against its more upper-class peers, gets injured, there is doubt as to whether or not he will survive the operation, and then we get the usual Hollywood sports-movie ending where he comes back from injury, wins the Welsh Grand National and lives out the rest of his days in a long and happy retirement.
The story is well executed through a series of interviews, reconstructions, and stock footage, and it all just flows beautifully. The story is well-paced enough that it never feels padded or too slow, but at the same time it still has time for character beats and development, and by the end of it, all the syndicate members have been fleshed out and been able to demonstrate their personalities somewhat.
The syndicate prove themselves to be likeable as people, displaying guts, determination and a good team spirit. Although on the surface it may seem like they did it solely to make money from horse-racing, they show that they really do have hearts of gold when they elect to save the horse after his injury even though it would be much quicker and easier to have him put-down on the spot, proving that they entered into the horse-racing venture for pride more than profit, and that they see Dream Alliance not just as a cash cow horse but instead as a valued family member.
The success of the film also lies in its superb editing as well as the cinematography and impressive sound editing. An impressive musical score re-enforces the small-town aesthetic during certain scenes where we’re also treated to some beautiful shots of the village and during the race sequences it amps up nicely in order to convey the tension.
Despite not doing anything new, bold or innovative with the sports drama genre, it’s still worth seeing for its brilliant execution.
Dark Horse is released 17th April 2015