A Prisoner among Prisoners
Hart's War
Review by Ross Anthony

Great production value, strong acting, an intense powerfully "captivating" first twenty minutes, but from there, "Hart's War" meanders, searches under barrack bunks and into hollowed-out trim wood for a unified direction.

More of a slice of life, definitely not an action film, "Hart's War" is "Hogan's Heroes" meets Hart's War"A Few Good Men." 1945 W.W.II, Yellow-bellied (son of a senator) Lt. Hart promptly becomes a prisoner of war, and remains locked up in Germany for the duration of the film. Lies abound, trust is guarded closer than the prisoners, and to add salt to the already aggravated wounds of some prejudiced white yanks, two African-American officers "drop" into the lock up.

A green soldier's loss of innocence, then a discrimination tale, and then a courtroom drama Hart's Warall played under the blue-gray, snow-cold barracks of Germany's Stalag 6A POW camp. Certainly a noble effort is made to bring the three together, no major mistakes are made, and the whole nearly works; but the intensity of the first 20 minutes never reprises and several transgressions in the later half play with an unlikely civility uncharacteristic of the earlier half.

An excellent actor, Terrence Howard ("The Best Man," "Angel Eyes"), is very good here, though still not his best performance (I predict he takes an Oscar within the next 10 years). Though he commands the screen as always, and despite the production notes synopsis that paints him as the star, Willis is NOT Lt. Hart. Colin Farrell stars as Hart.

Unfortunately, fluidity and build are muddled in this adaptation of Katzenbach's (whose father was a POW) novel. Producer David Ladd hit it on the nose when he said, "The challenge in development was blending all the book's marvelous issues and suspense into one cohesive piece." While most every other element of a strong picture are present, the very structure of the film subtly sabotages them. Still, a very strong B. (Or Weak B+)

Interesting note: On the eve of the shoot, Willis, Farrell and other cast members spent the night in the wooden barracks in order to get a small taste of POW experience.

  • Hart's War. Copyright © 2002. Rated R.
  • Starring Colin Farrell, Bruce Wills, Terrence Howard, Cole Hauser, Marcel Lures, Linus Roache.
  • Directed by Gregory Hoblit.
  • Screenplay by Billy Ray and Terry George.
  • Based on the novel by John Katzenbach.
  • Produced by Grebory Hoblit and Arnold Rifkin at MGM/Ladd/Foster/Cheyenne.


Copyright © 2002. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:08:45 PDT