Hart's War (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner24/05/2002

Three out of five stars
Running time: 125 mins

Average prisoner-of-war movie that tries very hard to combine the likes of Stalag 17 with a tense courtroom drama – not great, but Farrell keeps it watchable.

Despite the posters and the ad campaigns, Hart’s War is not a ‘Bruce Willis War Movie’ in a similar vein to We Were Soldiers. In fact, until towards the end of the film, it’s not at all clear why Willis took the role in the first place, as the ‘star’ of the film is unquestionably Colin Farrell (last seen in Joel Schumacher’s Tigerland).

Still, for the most part, this is a watchable cross between a POW drama and a courtroom thriller that deserves at least a modicum of praise for its subject matter.

The Plot

The film is set in December 1944. Farrell plays staff officer Hart, a combat-virgin who appears to have escaped the front-line thanks to his father’s position as a senator. When he is captured, he is sent to a German POW camp, where the senior American officer (Bruce Willis as Col McNamara) places him with the enlisted men rather than in the officer’s quarters.

Shortly afterwards, two black pilots arrive and are taunted by racist Sgt Bedford (Cole Hauser), who then frames one of the pilots and gets him executed. Subsequently, when Bedford is later found murdered, with the other pilot standing over him, Hart is given the job of defending him at a court-martial and comes to suspect that a cover-up is taking place.

The Acting

Leaving aside the tangled issue of just how Farrell manages to keep his hair so clean and shiny while imprisoned in a POW camp, this is, for the most part, enjoyable entertainment, enlivened by Farrell’s earnest performance and a commendably cliché-resistant performance by Marcel Lures as the jazz-loving, Yale-attending commandant.

Willis, by contrast, is remarkably restrained in his role and seems happy to play second fiddle to Farrell, though by the end of the film you can see why he wanted the part. (Unfortunately, one side effect of all the actorly earnestness on display is that both Farrell and Willis appear somewhat constipated throughout.)

The film is, at the very least, to be commended for its depiction of racism in the army, particularly in these jingoistic, God-Bless-America times. The set design is impressive too – a good third of the budget must have gone on rain machines (and hair-care).

In short, though the film threatens to unravel before the end, this is a reasonably entertaining drama that remains watchable thanks to Farrell’s star-in-the-making performance. Not great, but not awful either.

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Content updated: 21/10/2017 12:53

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