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Hart's War (2002) starstarstar

Reviewed 2002-08-03
: I haven't seen a great POW movie since The Great Escape (1963). I'm still waiting. But Hart's War is pretty close. And it takes an extra Second Look Reviewstep I've not seen before, injecting an element of race relations into the mix of heroism, perfidy and nihilism. Irish-born actor Colin Farrell plays the title role, although Bruce Willis seems to get most of the promotional face time. Farrell plays a lieutenant who has never seen action, who in the last months of World War II is suddenly thrust into more than he had ever counted on: captured in a German ambush, interrogated, and sent to a concentration camp under the watchful eye of a cultured commandant, Col. Visser (Marcel Iures), and tough-as-nails American Colonel McNamara (Willis), the ranking POW officer.

Hart gets detailed to the enlisted quarters because McNamara doesn't quite believe Hart gave only name-rank-serial number to his interrogator. But soon Hart has two more officers joining him: two black aviators become the next unwelcome guests in his barracks. And when one of the enlisted men (Cole Hauser) sets up one of the pilots, resulting in his execution, Hart has to draw on his two years of law school to defend the prime suspect in the enlisted man's murder: the other black pilot (Terrence Dashon Howard). If that isn't enough drama, perhaps there is more going on in this camp than the murder trial. McNamara always looks like he knows more than he's telling.

I was with this film through the accused impassioned speech at his trial, all the way up to the plot twist at the end. It isn't that I saw it coming, or that it wasn't handled as well as it could have been. But I think the resolution wasn't credible; it kind of spoiled the effect of the story on me. Still, Hart's War is a good war movie with a suitable complex performance from each of its lead actors.

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.