Hart's War: A Struggle for Survival and Civility
- Holly McClure Movie Reviewer
- 2002 10 Feb
Hart's War - R
Best for: Mature audiences.
What it's about: Lt. Tommy Hart (Colin Farrell) is a young officer who has never experienced active duty. While transporting an officer to another headquarters, Tommy is captured by German soldiers, tortured and sent to a German POW camp called Stalag VI. There he meets Col. William McNamara (Bruce Willis), a fourth-generation military officer who runs the camp under the eye of the camp's commanding officer, Col. Werner Visser (Marcel Iures).
An altercation between a black officer, Lt. Lincoln Scott (Terrence Howard), and a white officer, Sgt. Vic Bedford (Cole Hauser), leads to a murder trial. Hart, who studied law at Yale, is appointed to defend Scott, condemned to die for a crime he didn't commit. As time runs out and Hart uncovers the truth, he realizes there is more at stake than one man's life.
The good: I was fascinated by this introspective look at life in a POW camp, as the prisoners confront racial prejudice and social issues relevant for the 1940s time period.
Farrell skillfully captures the vulnerability and mental duress of a 24-year-old man who undergoes torture and deplorable conditions. Willis is a natural as the camp leader.
This is a different kind of war movie, with the primary action revolving around the POW camp and the inner workings between the men in the barracks. The story deals with themes of honor, courage, sacrifice and integrity as well as racism among the Americans (and Germans). The integrity that the black officer, Scott, maintains during the trial is a chilling reminder of the personal wars within wars that men have had to overcome throughout our history.
The characters are held accountable not only for the crime of murder but also for demeaning another human being purely because of his skin color.
The not-so-good: Several bloody wartime incidents depict men being shot and killed. Language and wartime violence are what give this movie its "R" rating. Maybe it's a depiction of the times, but everyone -- and I mean everyone -- smokes in almost every scene of this movie.
Offensive language and behavior: Strong profanity that includes the "F"-word as well as religious profanity. The word "nigger" is used in several scenes.
Sexual situations: None, but there are a couple of scenes (with brief partial and full nudity) where men are stripped and tortured or deliced.
Violence: A man's brains are splattered on another man's face. Several dead bodies are shown frozen, and several men are shot.
Parental advisory: This is a movie for mature audiences.
Bottom line: I really enjoyed Hart's War because it's a different kind of war story. I encourage parents to take their mature teenagers to see this movie and discuss some of the key elements about honor, courage, bravery and taking a stand for your beliefs. The cruelty of racism should also be addressed.