A review ofďHart's WarĒ by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for extreme violence

Run Time: 2 hour, 3 minutes

 

War is the flavor-of-the-moment on the big screen.The Somalian Conflict, Vietnam, Bosnia and Herzegovina Ė it seems that audiences are thirsting for battle.And Hollywood is delivering the goods.

So why not a German POW camp at the tail end of WWII?Bruce Willis plays fourth generation war hero Colonel William McNamara, a stoic commander whose imprisonment at a wretched Nazi prison camp is just another lofty excuse to retain a sense of honor for himself and his fellow captives. Yale-educated Lieutenant Thomas Hart (Colin Farrell) is the camp newbie, fresh from a Nazi torture session and anxious to wipe clean the horrific memories.He is accorded the respect due to an officer of his status in the camp hierarchy, and all seems as well as can be expected under the circumstances.

Goodwill goes south with the arrival of a pair of African American fighter pilots, Scott and Archer (Terrence Howard and Vicellous Reon Shannon).Bigotry rears its ugly head among the crush of enlisted men, and Hart finds it increasingly difficult to control the escalating emotions of the soldiers under his prison command.

Two unexpected and brutal deaths in two days bring the hostility to a head.Scott is accused of one of the murders, and a hasty mock trial is prepared to try him for the crime.Under the dangerous, vigilant eye of SS Major Wilhelm Visser (Marcel Iures), the proceedings are held in the prisonersí makeshift theater.Is there more to this legal disruption than meets the eye?

The film is a study in shades of gray, offering itself up in subtle plot maneuvers but never quite owning up to the unyielding truths behind the mysteries. Did Hart reveal military secrets under the strain of interrogation?Are prisoners and guards collaborating on black market trade?Itís an effective tool that borders on frustration and establishes an absorbing level of curiosity.Shocking scenes of extreme battlefront gore are unexpected, but not gratuitous.

Willis is the headliner, wry and deadpan, but itís Farrellís performance that screams charisma.Farrell sidesteps his good looks (yowza!) with a vulnerable performance as an uneasy outsider trying to fit in and an honorable young man desperate to do the right thing.And honor is what itís all about for Hartís war.