Hart's War (2002)

Beyond Courage, Beyond Honor.

Fourth-generation Army Col. William McNamara is imprisoned in a brutal German POW camp. Still, as the senior-ranking American officer, he commands his fellow inmates, keeping a sense of honor alive in a place where honor is easy to destroy, all under the dangerous eye of the Luftwafe vetran Col. Wilhelm Visser. Never giving up the fight to win the war, McNamara is silently planning, waiting for his moment to strike back at the enemy. A murder in the camp gives him the chance to set a risky plan in motion. With a court martial to keep Visser and the Germans distracted, McNamara orchestrates a cunning scheme to escape and destroy a nearby munitions plant, enlisting the unwitting help of young Lt. Tommy Hart. Together with his men, McNamara uses a hero's resolve to carry out his mission, ultimately forced to weigh the value of his life against the good of his country.

Like Hogan's Heroes but serious and quasi-realistic
RELEASED IN 2002 and directed by Gregory Hoblit, "Hart's War" is a war flick about a paper-pushing lieutenant with a background in law (Colin Farrell) who is unexpectedly captured in Belgium and taken to a POW camp in southern Germany in the closing months of the European theater of the war. He eventually befriends and defends a Tuskegee Airmen (Terrence Howard). Marcel Iures plays the humane German commandant while Bruce Willis plays the tough-as-nails American colonel of the POWs. Cole Hauser is on hand as a racist soldier.
This is obviously not a conventional WWII flick. Although it starts out with some great war action, it has more in common with films like "Stalag 17" (1953) and "The Great Escape" (1963), albeit with modern filmmaking craft. As my title blurb points out, it's reminiscent of Hogan's Heroes but without the comedy, plus elements of “A Few Good Men” (1992). The film isn't really about survival in the POW camp, but rather the tensions of the prisoners and the criminal drama.
Some have complained that no fascist camp colonel in his right mind would allow such a trial as depicted in the movie. But there are several reasons why the commandant would allow it: (1.) for entertainment, (2.) to witness and understand the American way, (3.) he knew the war would be over soon and wanted to have the Allie's favor, or (4.) a mixture of the above. Keep in mind that the commandant went to school in the US after the first world war so he was enamored by American lifestyle and had a fondness for jazz. I'm sure entertainment was a huge factor since POW camp life is just as boring for the captors as it is for the captives over time.
The climax telegraphs that this is a war MOVIE and not real life, but it's packed with action and gripping drama. It’s also ultimately quite moving. Although it failed at the box office, "Hart's War" is a very good WWII POW camp movie and, in some ways, great.
THE FILM RUNS 125 minutes and was shot in the Czech Republic.
GRADE: B+/A-

David Foster Productions, Cheyenne Enterprises, David Ladd Films, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer by Gregory Hoblit, John Katzenbach, Billy Ray, Terry George.
Stars: Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard, Cole Hauser.

Genres: Drama, War

Keywords: black people world war ii prisoner of war u.s. army escape tribunal trial soldier military tribunal xenophobia

02/15/2002

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