HART'S WAR is an intriguing courtroom drama set within the confines of a
prisoner-of-war camp towards the end of World War II. Director Gregory
Hoblit uses the same low-key and methodical approach that he applied even
more successfully in FREQUENCY. He makes the most of a good cast, including
Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell and Terrence Howard, by having them all slightly
underplay their roles. But a relative unknown, Marcel Iures, who plays the
Nazi camp commandant, ends up stealing the show. (If you can't remember
where you've seen him before, it was probably in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE or THE
The story starts when Lieutenant Tommy Hart (Farrell) is captured while on a
supposedly safe mission driving a higher ranking officer around in a jeep.
Hart, a second-year law student from Yale, is assigned cushy jobs because
his father is a senator. After a brutal interrogation, in which he may or
may not have revealed certain military secrets, Hart is sent to a
prisoner-of-war camp in which Colonel William McNamara (Willis) is the top
ranking American officer. McNamara, a graduate of West Point and a fourth
generation soldier, is itching to get back into the thick of combat, but it
looks like he is destined to rot in the camp until the war is basically
Although the camp is nothing like the one in "Hogan's Heroes," it isn't
quite as harsh as one suspects it would have been in reality. The
commandant is certainly an unusual character. A graduate of Yale and a
lover of "Negro jazz," he is absolutely delighted when someone is killed and
McNamara insists on a full-blown military tribunal, complete with days full
of evidentiary proceedings. Gleefully, he tells McNamara that it will be
"like in your American movies." And, it is.
The movie begins to come apart as it reaches its conclusion. Several
actions, major and minor, aren't credible. If you're flexible enough about
suspending disbelief, however, few of these flaws will matter. The
well-timed message of the movie, about the meaning of honor, is certainly
one that resonates.
HART'S WAR runs 2:03. It is rated R for "some strong war violence and
language" and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes