by Del Harvey
Don’t let the trailers fool you: This is more drama than war story.
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I am a big Bruce willis fan. I love him in the Die Hards, both the good and the bad. Last Man Standing, Twelve Monkeys, Death Becomes Her, The Last Boy Scout, Billy Bathgate. He has made his fair share of stinkers, too, with Hudson Hawk, North, etc. And now we have this film. In Hart’s War Willis plays Colonel William McNamara, ranking officer in a German prisoner of war camp. When a black POW is accused of killing a white POW, he assigns Lt. Tommy Hart (Colin Farrell—Tigerland, American Outlaws, the upcoming Minority Report) to defend the black POW. This causes no end of grief for Hart, whose privileged background causes him to look upon the black man as inferior. McNamara pushes Hart to question his abilities as a lawyer versus all that nasty, uppercrust upbringing.
Hart’s War is directed by Gregory Hoblit, who has done Frequency, Fallen, and Primal Fear. I hear tell there are people who like those films. In each case I was left feeling a little let down at the end of each one of them. Suffice to say I shared those feelings after watching Hart’s War. It’s too bad, really, since the book was written by John Katzenbach (The Mean Season, Just Cause). He’s a good writer, and the cast is very good, and the cinematography (Alar Kivilo—The Glass House, A Simple Plan) is rich and lush. The score, by Rachel Portman (Chocolat, Cider House Rules), is equally stirring and sumptuous, but cannot hide the fatal flaws.
I would like to say that the whole thing seemed too contrived, and that it perhaps was the fault of the writer. But, with Mr. Hoblit’s track record, I really cannot lie like that. So, I am forced to await the release of Mr. Willis’ next film, with hopes that his director for the next outing is at least comparable to the actor’s abilities.
Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of Film Monthly. He lives in Southern California, is a devout Bears fan, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College for giggles.
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