Valiant (2005) – movie review

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Movie Review by Vivienne Messenger

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ricky Gervais, Tim Curry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Laurie

Director: Gary Chapman

The Royal Homing Pigeon Service (RHPS) needs you. This is the ad that galvanizes a young pigeon, Valiant (Ewan McGregor) into action. Despite his smallness and inexperience, the movie focuses on Valiant’s coming of age adventure as he leaves home to fight for the allies during World War II by joining the RHPS. A feature and period animation, VALIANT highlights the vital role pigeons played during World War II by flying important messages behind enemy lines and evading the German’s falcon squad – something I wasn’t aware of.

Inspired by his hero Gutsy (Hugh Laurie), an elite flier with the RHPS, he courageously heads to London from the country to enrol. Literally falling out of the sky in an uncontrolled landing he knocks flat two pigeons wising up to the dealings of a shady pigeon called Bugsy (Ricky Gervais) who is trying to swindle them out of their money. Bugsy makes a calculated fast exit with our naïve Valiant and smart talks the two of them into being accepted for the next batch of RHPS recruits. Making up this motley crew of new recruits are Lofty (Pip Torrens) who comes from a military family and twins Toughwood (Brian Lonsdale) and Tailfeather (Dan Roberts), somewhat dim witted but strong and raring to go.

What follows is an immensely entertaining and hilarious story that unfolds in an accurately depicted, wartime 1940’s Britain, complete with a rousing military band soundtrack. It chronicles Valiant’s extraordinary achievement as he starts at the bottom and valiantly climbs to the top as his bravery and common sense outstrip his relative lack of military expertise, when he and his squad are sent on an assignment before their training is completed. The movie deftly manages to combine an excellent and witty script but not lose sight of its true foundations and the vital role pigeons played in wartime Britain.

The movie will certainly have you laughing out loud on numerous occasions from the countless one-liners delivered by the ensemble cast. Other cast members include: Olivia Williams who plays Victoria, a nurse on the military training base constantly patching up the accident prone Valiant and who he is attracted to; Tim Curry as the devious German falcon leader General Von Talon; the exasperated Sarge (Jim Broadbent) training the RHPS recruits; publican Felix (John Hurt) who has a peg leg and captured allied pigeon Mercury (John Cleese) who spends most of the movie being interrogated by Von Talon. Don’t miss TV presenter and film critic Jonathan Ross who voices Big Thug.

Vanguard Animation completed the project in two years on a $40 million budget and was helmed by producer John H Williams (SHREK, SHREK 2) who though initializing the project in Los Angeles moved the production to new purpose built offices at the famous Ealing Studios in West London.

A definitely illuminating and excellently presented animation that will appeal to all ages, VALIANT is a highly entertaining, extremely funny, feel good movie that also educates an otherwise unknowing young audience of the vital roles animals played during World War II.

5 out of 6 stars