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Hart's War (2002)
Rated R

Starring: Colin Farrell, Terrance Howard, and Bruce Willis

Rating:
***
out of
*****

It's late in World War II and Lt. Tommy Hart is serving his time in the Army as an officer's aide far from combat. Hart's father is a Senator and his father's influence has kept him safe in an office building, tracking troop movements and running errands. All that changes while giving a Captain a ride back to his troops. German soldiers intercept Hart's Jeep and, after a harrowing escape attempt, Hart is captured and marched to a POW camp.

As he arrives at the camp, he meets Col. William McNamara (Bruce Willis), who is in charge of the officer's barracks. McNamara assigns Hart to bunk with the enlisted men; telling him there is no room in the officer's barracks for him. While getting settled in the enlisted barracks, two more officers arrive -- Lt. Lincoln Scott (Terrence Howard) and Lt. Lamar Archer (Vicellous Shannon), both members of the Tuskegee Airmen -- and both of them black. This enflames some of the enlisted men's tempers. Lt. Archer is framed for attempting to escape and is executed by the camp guards. When Vic Bedford, the soldier who is suspected of framing the officer, is himself beaten and killed, Lt. Hart finds himself assigned as the lawyer for the suspected murderer: Lt. Scott.

Hart's War is basically a courtroom drama with a POW camp as a backdrop. There are undercurrents of patriotism, duty, honor and courage in the face of the enemy, but they take a backseat to the trial of Lt. Scott. Although Bruce Willis receives top billing for the movie, his character is mostly a supporting role.

Colin Farrell turns in an excellent performance as Lt. Tommy Hart. The script allows him to evolve from a somewhat naive and stubbornly proud boy to a man willing to fight for what he believes to be just. The best performance in the film comes from Marcel Iures, who plays Col. Werner Visser, the German commander of the POW camp. His character is multi-layered and rich in complexities, all of which come across as real due to Iures' portrayal. Visser is a man you'd like to have coffee with and probe his brain, but you'd never want to get on his bad side. That would mean a certain death sentence. Willis is his usual confident self. His role requires very little in the way of stretching Willis' acting talents, so it's not particularly good or bad. His role is simply a lot like many of Willis' other roles that required him to be firm in the face of an enemy of some kind.

Hart's War is no masterpiece and its all too neat-and-tidy ending may irk those looking for something truly unusual or thought provoking to come out of the movie's preaching about honor and duty. Still, Hart's War is a competent and interesting movie that is well-worth the price of admission. Just don't expect Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down. Hart's War is fought in the courtroom, not the battlefield.

Trivia: Edward Norton and Tobey McGuire were both in talks for the lead role, but both eventually dropped out . (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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