Hart's War (2002) / War-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence and language
Running Time: 125 min.
Cast: Colin Farrell, Bruce Willis, Terrence Howard, Cole Hauser, Marcel Iures
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Screenplay: Billy Ray, Terry George (based on the novel by John Katzenbach)
Review published February 15, 2002
Although Hart's War was a major financial failure at the box office, gaining only $19 million of it's lofty $70 million price tag back, don't let the bad business make you think it's going to be a bad movie. Hart's War is actually a decent flick for much of the way, and contains many nice touches that make for some worthwhile viewing. I don't necessarily recommend it if you want to see Bruce Willis (Bandits, Unbreakable), as he is just a supporting character despite the prominence of his mug on the poster and name at the top of the billing. Besides, Bruno's acting ability, or lack thereof, is perhaps the main reason why Hart's War eventually doesn't hit home when it needed to during what should have been the emotional climax of the film.
Late into World War II, U.S. Lieutenant Thomas Hart (Farrell, Minority Report) is captured by the Germans and sent to a prison camp. The camp itself is not a place without rank, and Colonel William McNamara (Willis) leads the American POWs, helping them stay out of trouble from the German captors. Things get a little disruptive in the barracks when two Black officers enter the camp and are put in with the white soldiers, especially for Sgt. Bedford (Hauser, Pitch Black), the camp's wheeler and dealer barterer, who can't get past his racist views to see them as fellow officers. When one of the Black officers is framed and shot in a firing squad by the Germans, Bedford draws the ire of Lt. Scott (Howard, Angel Eyes), the other Black officer, who is convinced Bedford is the one who set up his friend. A mock court marshal hearing is called for, and Lt. Hart is the one who defend Scott, even though the trial seems far from fair given the circumstances.
Director Gregory Hoblit (Fracture) is slowly but surely putting together an interesting and varied career, with the court film Primal Fear, the horror cop flick Fallen, the mystical nostalgia film Frequency, and now the intriguing war film Hart's War. Hoblit has shown maturity in the look and pace of the film, and with some good acting from the cast, is able to make something out of what might have been a boring war film. However, while the story is interesting, the script just doesn't have the quality necessary to evoke any patriotism or feeling for the characters, and the music by Rachel Portman (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules) doesn't give the punch for what should have been gripping.
Fans of Colin Farrell will enjoy the work he puts into this film, especially since he is the real star of the film. Fans of Bruce Willis may be a bit disappointed, not only because he isn't in this film as much as you'd think, but also because he doesn't handle his scenes with any depth of emotion. Although I can't say Hart's War is a good film on the whole, I'm recommending it for an interesting diversion, especially for those who like WWII films.
©2002 Vince Leo