Hart's War

Directed by Gregory Hoblit
Starring: Colin Farrell, Bruce Willis, Terrence Howard, Cole Hauser, Marcel Iures, Linus Roache, Vicellous Shannon.
MPAA Rating: R for some strong war violence and language.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
February 26, 2002

Here we are: yet another war picture and we're just getting started with the whole string of them. The ads would lead you to believe that this is Bruce Willis' war -- but he's not Hart.

No, it's Irishman Colin Farrell who plays Lt. Hart (in his latest attempt at an American accent -- he's getting better), a law student and a U.S. Senator's son who is spending World War II at a desk. That is, until he's captured by the Nazis and thrown into Stalag VI-A.

The ranking American officer imprisoned there, Col. McNamara (Willis), places him in a barracks with enlisted men because there is supposedly no room with the officers. Later, two black lieutenants from the Tuskegee Air Corps are captured, and McNamara puts them with Hart. The previous ranking man in that barracks, Staff Sgt. Bedford (Cole Hauser), objects to being housed with black men, much less officers whom he is supposed to salute. He apparently gets the younger pilot (Vicellous Shannon) killed, only to later get killed himself. The other black pilot (Terrence Howard) is accused of the murder, and McNamara commands Hart to defend him in a court martial at the stalag.

Unfortunately, this isn't Stalag 17. They had actual characters there, whereas Stalag VI-A is stocked with redneck toughguys, crafty-slick Nazis, virtuous black martyrs, and, of course, Bruce Willis as himself. Director Gregory Hoblit (Frequency) wanted to make a better film, and he came close to doing so, but it doesn't show us anything new or interesting.

The entire film rides on the shoulders of Farrell, whose performance at least keeps the film watchable. His role, after all, is the only one that approaches a well-developed character. The story he is thrust into, however, isn't so much developed as it is pieced-together from other POW movies. I don't know if the filmmakers expected us to be surprised when the escape plot was revealed, but the film's tone certainly tries to be revelatory. I was only surprised at how long I had to wait to see the damn tunnel.

Hoblit can do -- and has done -- much better than this. Hopefully he has this whole war-movie thing out of his system, as should the other fifty directors who just dabbled in the genre. I don't know if everybody else agrees with me, but there's enough war on CNN for me these days; I don't need to see any more on the big screen.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Hart's War (2002)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
Hart's War, a novel by John Katzenbach -- Hardcover
Hart's War, a novel by John Katzenbach -- Paperback
Hart's War, a novel by John Katzenbach -- Audio Cassette (read by Frank Muller)
Hart's War: Score -- Compact Disc

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Review © 2002 Matt Heffernan