Running Free (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sergei Bodrov|
|Produced by||Jean-Jacques Annaud|
|Screenplay by||Jeanne Rosenberg|
|Story by||Jeanne Rosenberg
|Narrated by||Lukas Haas|
|Music by||Nicola Piovani|
|Edited by||Ray Lovejoy|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|June 2, 2000|
Running Free is a 2000 film about a horse born into slavery in 1914. The film began production in 1999 and was released in the US in 2000. It was directed by Sergei Bodrov, written and produced by Jean-Jacques Annaud, narrated by Lukas Haas, and distributed by Columbia Pictures.
Running Free takes place primarily in German South-West Africa (Namibia), 1914 during World War I. An Arabian mare gives birth to a beautiful chestnut foal during a voyage to Swakopmund for work in the copper mines. The foal is separated from his mother upon arrival at an unidentified mining town and nearly expires from dehydration. He is subsequently saved from certain death by the 12-year old sympathetic town stable boy, Richard (Chase Moore).
Richard allows Lucky to live in the thoroughbred stable - much to the resentment of Caesar, resident stallion and the prize horse of a wealthy colonial. Lucky is finally reunited with his mother, but she is killed by Caesar, furious that a workhorse has trespassed into his stable. Lucky wanders away from the town upon the death of his mother but returns after being struck by a desert snake. Richard treats the bite with Caesar's personal medication, But so Richard is acussed by your 8-year old cousin Hans (Nicholas Trueb) despite being threatened with grave consequences from the latter's vengeful master (Jan Decleir). After being savagely punished, the duo depart to seek a much-sought oasis in the nearby mountains.
Alone in the Namib Desert with Lucky, Richard encounters a 11-year old girl named Nyka (Maria Geelbooi) who teaches them how to survive in the harsh landscape. When they eventually return to the mining settlement, it is struck by an SAAF air raid. The Schutztruppe begins evacuating local civilians, but Richard refuses to leave Lucky. He is forced to do so against his will when Allied biplanes return to strafe the railroad. After the evacuation, Nyka was left to watch over Lucky and even brought him to her tribe. When he picked up a familiar smell from the hunt done by Nyka's tribe, Lucky left.
Back at the camp, Lucky is repelled by Caesar and the other horses who treat him with contempt. He sets off for the oasis once more, vowing to best Caesar one day. After making the acquaintance of several exotic animals in the desert, Lucky finally stumbles upon the hidden oasis. Two years later, he returns, defeats Caesar, and leads the remaining horses to the water.
Another twelve years pass with Lucky presiding over his new herd before a 26-year old grown Richard (Arie Verveen) returns to South-West Africa, now a South African mandate. He finds the German mining town deserted and flies into the desert searching for the oasis, which can be glimpsed from the sky. Upon landing, Richard stumbles upon the horses and is nearly killed by Lucky who attacks him. However, the latter soon recognizes his friend's unique whistle and the two rekindle their relationship.
- Chase Moore as Young Richard
- Arie Verveen as Adult Richard
- Maria Geelbooi as Nyka
- Jan Decleir as Boss Man
- Graham Clarke as Mine Supervisor
- Patrick Lyster as Officer
- Morne Visser as Groom
- Dan J. Robbertse as Colonel
- Nicholas Trueb as Hans the Boss' Son
- Lukas Haas as Narrator
The film was directed by Sergei Bodrov, who had previously directed the Oscar-nominated Prisoner of the Mountains. Screen-writer Jeanne Rosenberg had previously worked on the film adaptation of Black Stallion directed by Carol Ballard. The film was produced by Jean-Jacques Annaud, who had previously worked on such films as Quest for Fire and The Bear.
The film received generally negative reviews from critics. A New York Times review of the film was unenthusiastic, saying the film "vacillates between cutesy Disney-style anthropomorphism and Born Free exoticism" and that the "equine action sequences are poorly edited", while the musical score was "sugary". The reviewer was disappointed in the filmmakers, given their previous accomplishments, and the fact that the film portrayed horses as "masters of the obvious who think and speak entirely in movie cliches". Film critic Roger Ebert also panned the film, giving it 1.5 out of 4 stars. Ebert called the human characters "one-dimensional cartoons" and criticized the plot for historical and cultural errors. He was also disappointed with the filmmakers, given their previous efforts, and stated the film "might have been more persuasive if the boy had told the story of the horse, instead of the horse telling the story of the boy." The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 27% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 30 reviews, with an average score of 4.3/10. The site's consensus reads: "The narration in Running Free detracts from its beauty, and pushes the film to the point of absurdity." Of 1,387 audience reviews on the same site, 73% liked the film, and it has an average rating of 3.5/5.