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December 1944. First Lieutenant Thomas Hart (Colin Farrell), a senator's son who has never seen combat, is captured, interrogated and sent to Stalag VI in Belgium. POW commanding officer McNamara (Bruce Willis) believes Hart may have revealed military secrets to the Germans and places him in Barracks 27 with enlisted soldiers. When two African-American pilots also assigned to Barracks 27 racial tension flares and ringleader Sgt Bedford (Cole Hauser) is murdered. Black officer Lt Scott (Terrence Howard) is charged and camp Commandant Col Visser (Marcel Ieures) permits a court-martial to take place. Hart is appointed as Scott's counsel while McNamara presides over proceedings. As Hart battles to save Scott from execution a daring escape plan is mounted.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Wrong casting for the market. If you want to appeal to Bruce Willis fans, you either put him in action mode or comedy. War time courtroom drama? No. The key image is Bruce on the poster, which suggests itís a war movie and the title suggests he plays a character called Hart. (Subliminal suggestion in the name, there?) It isnít. He doesnít. But thereís nothing wrong with the movie, in fact itís a technical triumph, combining the typically rich Rachel Portman score with the sombre setting of Stalag VI in late 1944/early 1945. The story is gripping and itís a refined script that extracts the issues of pre-black civil rights in America and the role of black soldiers/airmen fighting for freedom, and the earthy issues of survival and escape in a POW camp. But, even though inspired by a true story, Hartís War misses a beat, playing its themes with a dour, earnest and overbearing style. Performances are solidly craftsmanlike, but the script never calls on that inner mystery / outer simplicity that creates memorable screen characters.†

If you think Iím being tough on the film, listen to the commentary by director Gregory Hoblit, writer Billy Ray (and Bruce Willis). The latter keeps quiet a lot, making the occasional comment on the dramatic issues, but Hoblit and Ray conduct a profound post mortem, in which their shortcomings and endless debates over scenes being in or out get a good airing. Itís definitely a more interesting way to see the film a second time.

Producer David Fosterís commentary provides, as you would expect, the big picture; although he does occasionally add a colourful anecdote or historical footnote.†

The transfer to DVD is almost seamless, and the sound is excellent, making the DVD good value for collectors, whether war movie specialist or general. If you just want to rent it, allow enough time to enjoy the extras, like the deleted scenes with commentary (for most) by director Gregory Hoblit. There are 10, and some are quite major. It hurt to cut some, as Hoblit points out. But thatís showbiz.

Published October 10, 2002

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CAST: Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard, Cole Hauser, Marcel Iures, Linus Roache

DIRECTOR: Gregory Hoblit

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES: SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary with Bruce Willis, director Gregory Hoblit, writer Billy Ray; Audio Commentary with producer David Foster; deleted scenes with commentary by Gregory Hoblit

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

DVD RELEASE: October 16, 2002 (rental and retail)

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