ninth symphony films - movie reviews

HART'S WAR (2002)

DIRECTOR  -  gregory hoblit

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  war

LENGTH  -  125 minutes

RELEASED  -  15 february 2002


OFFICIAL SITE  -  hart's war

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $70,000,000
hart's war - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from hart's war at

buy the dvd from hart's war at

a law student becomes a lieutenant during world war ii, is captured and asked to defend a black prisoner of war falsely accused of murder.

edward norton and tobey maguire were both in talks for the lead role, but both eventually dropped out.


picture from hart's war

picture from hart's war

picture from hart's war


two out of four possible stars

This film is beautiful, even though it takes place in a desolate war camp in the middle of the winter. With the wide aspect ratio the cinematographer used, the film has quite a scope, even though all of its scenes take place in but a few locations. But that scope is not filled with enough passion from the actors to warrant such interesting cinematography. Hart's War takes some interesting ideas and puts them on the screen without enough daring and intelligence. Or, rather, it tries to put too many ideas together in one film and doesn't follow them through to conclusion.

The idea of two black men, Tuskegee Airmen, played by Terrence Dashon Howard and Vicellous Reon Shannon, being shot down and having to be quartered with an entirely white population of prisoners of war, it an intriguing one, and it's certainly never been brought to the screen before. But there is another element to this film, a psychological war between three of its characters that also tries to become a dominant factor. And the story never delves deep enough into any of the lives of its characters to really make them a dynamic part of the movie. It's almost as if the film is a showcase of some beautiful people, rather than a dramatic war film.

Something which wasn't necessarily dramatic, but was a good addition to the film, was that the hierarchy of the American soldiers in the camp was preserved even though they were all imprisoned. And the Nazi soldiers guarding the camp respect this set-up as well. And that respect contains one of the most troubling aspects of this film. The top ranking Nazi officer, played by the scene stealing Marcel Iures, as "Werner Visser," is actually likeable throughout most of the movie. Even at his worst, it is hard to hate the man. Which is incredible, considering that he's a member of the Nazi army. And that Bruce Willis, as an actor, has less of a presence on screen is another vote in Marcel's direction.

It is quite a hard pill to take to realize after you've watched a film that the "bad guy" is not the most reviled character of the script. And what type of person is a more universally hated character than a German solider during World War II? The film certainly did not seek to cause the audience to have sympathy with the Nazi cause, but as a character, Verner is one of the most interesting parts of the cast. When Ralph Fiennes played a Nazi solider in Schindler's List, his character was fascinating, though he certainly wasn't likeable. In Hart's War, it's hard not to want to see more of Marcel's character on the screen.

But problems with the loyalties of certain characters aside, all of the actors in this film seem to have given as good of performances as could have been expected from their dialogue and characters. This film apparently had much rewriting done on the script and with some major changes taking place after the film had begun production, some of the tension that should have been present over the course of the film, was missing. The plot of this film involves a trial for murder involving the Tuskegee Airman shot down near the camp. The scenes that take place in the courtroom don't really offer the audience anything new or interesting that hasn't been done in a courtroom sequence before.

And looking at the larger picture, this film takes some unique ideas, such as the housing of a black pilot with white enlisted troops during World War II, and buries it beneath a film without much originality or excitement. And because the trailer for the movie revealed a horrible amount of the plot, there were no surprises for the first time viewer. If the trailer had kept some of what was to occur in the second and third acts a secret, it would have been easier for the film to keep a viewer’s attention for the entire running time.

In the end, this film has some good performances, an interesting idea, and some beautiful cinematography to its credit. But it offers few surprises and the word "standard" is much more an apt term to descript the film than good, interesting, or beautiful. As a focal point for the movie, Colin Farrell gives a much more subtle performance than was required for his character, hence his appearance in this review at the end of the page. As a whole, everyone in the film, save the entertaining Nazi, needed more passion in his character to make the very regular film a boost of any sort. It's a muted film whose excitement was probably lost in the shuffling back and forth of the script.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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