Hart's War


Directed by: Gregory Hoblit
Written by:Billy Ray, Terry George
Starring: Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard, Cole Hauser, Marcel Iures, Linus Roache
Released: May 30, 2002
Grade: B-

I’m no marketing guru but I find it odd that two films are released in the same week with similar sounding titles.  The hot new Aussie flick, The Hard Word is going head-to-head with the new pick from the United States, Hart’s War.  Both titles have the same initials and each word is a single syllable.  Maybe I’m just being trivial but hey, judging from the lukewarm reception this film received overseas, it needs all the help it can get.

Set in 1944, Lt. Thomas Hart (Farrell) is captured in a raid and taken to Stalag 6A, a German prisoner of war camp.  Leading the soldiers inside is Col. William McNamara (Willis) who debriefs Hart but does not allow him to stay in the hut allocated to officers (as he should be entitled).  Instead, he asks him to stay in another hut and keep a watchful eye on its soldiers.

In the weeks subsequent, two new soldiers arrive, both African American, and McNamara asks them to stay in Hart’s hut.  The other soldiers are enraged that they should have to live with “niggers” and Hart is doing everything he can to keep the peace.  Any chance of that is lost when fellow soldier Vic Bedford (Hauser) is murdered with one of the African Americans, Lincoln Scott (Howard), found overlooking the body.

McNamara asks German camp leader Col. Werner Visser (Iures) that a trial be held to determine the guilt of Scott.  He allows it, as he’s seen such things in American movies, and so it begins.  But Hart soon learns that McNamara isn’t the prized Colonel he expected.  McNamara asks Hart to defend Scott despite having no experience.  Further, he gets a fully qualified lawyer to act as the prosecution.  What hope does Scott have now and why would McNamara have the scales so unevenly balances?  Hart’s going to find out...

Hart’s War is a consistently dull film.  The story is mildly interesting but isn’t given an opportunity to develop.  It’s just a standard “who done it” flick and the answers provided in the third final act aren’t at all surprising.  Colin Farrell (Tigerland) is a star in the making and overshadows Bruce Willis with a strong performance.  In a few weeks, Farrell’s star status will rocket appearing alongside Tom Cruise in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report.  Willis looks tired in his role and his raspy voice and expressionless face is becoming a stereotype in itself.

It makes you wonder why MGM Studios put up $70m to make this.  The studio has been plagued by disaster after disaster (anyone see Species 2?) and the $19m total gross at the U.S. Box-office is another kick in the teeth.  It appears this film has no target market and is just going to slide off Aussie screens with minimal fuss in a matter of weeks.  Maybe it’s time to try some gambles and tackle some more adventurous material.