When Hart's War
came out, was the thought on everyone's mind, "Oh great... Another war movie"? It must've been, as it didn't do very well at the box office. My first thought was actually "Cool! Bruce Willis starring in a war movie!" However, I didn't see it in theatres, because I too thought it was just another war movie, trying to recreate the success of Saving Private Ryan.
As it turns out, I was wrong on two counts. This isn't much of a war movie, but simply a film set in the midst of war. And Bruce Willis doesn't star in the film so much as he stands painfully aside.
This film's greatest success is its courage to make some questioning statements. Set in a prisoner-of-war camp in WWII, there are times when it seems the Nazis might have more good in them than most of the Americans. Despite the mass genocide of Jews during these years, the true prejudice in this camp comes from white prisoners against a pair of downed Tuskegee pilots.
Unfortunately, there's not much else to say of the film's intelligence or artistic merit. Although Colin Farrell does a masterful job in the lead role and truly deserves first billing, Willis is not just underused--he's practically ignored. The man is capable of some superb acting, but here he simply talks tough and gritty. They could've saved a fortune and gotten Clint Eastwood or even Sam Elliott to do the part, and the movie wouldn't have suffered.
As I said before, people confused this as a war movie... But the filmmakers seemed confused as well. The film lacks direction. Just when you think it's becoming the war movie you expected, it becomes a trial film. (I wouldn't go so far as consider it a "crime drama", however.) And, just as you get used to the film as a trial movie, it becomes a war movie again. In the end, the film makes some good points about the ingredients of a "true soldier", but the journey is so slow and winding, it's hard to take anything from it.
Don't see the film if you're looking forward to big explosions and heavy fighting. Chances are, you've seen all the action this film has to offer in the previews.
Those who enjoy films tackling the true evils of the world--not Nazism, but racism and bigotry in general--will be moderately entertained by the film. It does address these things--somewhat typically, yes--but well-implemented through Colin Farrell and a few key members of the supporting cast.
Seeming to be the latest in a long, long string of war films over the past three or four years, Hart's War
never got a fair chance. Sadly, however, it wouldn't accomplish much if it had a fair chance. If you're still hungry for war films, go out and get Black Hawk Down
or wait for We Were Soldiers
. As for trial films, you'd still be better off with any number of '90s John Grisham adaptations.