Harts War (2002)

Harts War (2002)Ever since watching The Sixth Sense (1999) I knew Bruce Willis could act and does give a good performance when he’s not down to he last dirty vest and round of bullets. Instead he is wearing his only colonels uniform in a P.O.W. camp in Hart’s War (2002) when Lt. Thomas W. Hart (Colin Farrell) is brought into the camp, an officer who should be staying in the officers cabin, instead sent to those of the enlisted where he has to take command of the men.

It smells like any other P.O.W. film that has been made, everyone together and against the Germans who hold them captive. As Hart starts to settle into camp life as best he can. The men start to respect him, beyond the uniform, especially Staff Sgt. Vic W. Bedford (Cole Hauser) who is the resident scavenger, every camp needs one. Whilst also dealing with his time from being interrogated before joining the rest. We see flashbacks which show a different and more broken side which is not fully explored beyond his debriefing early on which frustrates me. It never really influences him later on.

With everything being as comfortable as it can, two African-American pilots, second lieutenants arrive, something a sea of white men didn’t expect. Complete with the racism of the time. Even being in a soldier’s uniform doesn’t gain them any more respect than they had on the streets back home. They join Hart in general quarters, having to fight for respect, whilst keeping their heads low, wanting to sit out their time causing no problems. All this before Lt. Lamar T. Archer (Vicellous Reon Shannon) is believed to be hiding weapons, which could endanger the German officers, is quickly shot with no trial or obligation to international conventions. Leaving his friend Lt. Lincoln A. Scott (Terrence Howard) to defend himself, something that is harder to do than he thought when Staff Sgt. Vic W. Bedford is found dead at the neck one night after a fight outside.

The Americans step up to defend themselves wanting a proper trial, something that is entertained by the camps leader Col. Werner Visser (Marcel Iures) before the theatre they have used is turned into more barracks. Pushing Hart a second year law student into the front on situation, to defend Lt. Lincoln A. Scott who pleads his innocence throughout the proceedings. What follows is the WWII equivalent of A Few Good Men (1992) as they fight for justice which is more the Germans paying lip-service to the American prisoners who don’t really have a right to hold a trial. Seen more as entertainment. The colonel takes this seriously enough to assist the defence, which goes against the grain when it comes to cinematic Nazi’s.

The final twist at the end is too good to not laugh at, when an escape plan is literally unearthed, something that feels unreal when all the evidence is brought to light, making the trial just a façade whilst 35 men make a daring escape and carry out a mission. Placing an African-American as the fall guy. I just don’t buy it and respect such a twist, showing that an army would turn on their own men to carry out a mission. This is where the film falls down from being a courtroom drama that could really get your attention. It’s all thrown away for a cheap twist wants to be more than it is.

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