"Hart's War" is an atmospheric and moving second world war story that works fantastically well on a number of levels. One level it doesn't work at all, is that if you're expecting a action adventure romp with a vest wearing Bruce Willis then go and find something else to watch.
Captured and sent to a POW camp, Lt Thomas Hart (Colin Farrell) is the son of an American congressman who fully expected to spend "his war" behind a desk at headquarters. Ambushed whilst driving a fellow officer back towards the front he is captured and interrogated and final packed aboard a train crammed with hundreds of other POWs. On arriving at the camp he is welcomed by Col McNamara (Bruce Willis), the highest ranking prisoner and therefore in charge of the POWs. McNamara all but interrogates Hart on how he was captured and subsequently questioned and dissatisfied with the answers, assigns him to a bunk in with the non commissioned officers and other men. Days later two American pilots are also sent to the camp, nothing that unusual except that these two flyers are black and in a seeming act of racism by McNamara, they are also sent to live in Hart's hut. Subjected to general insubordination and hurtful racist abuse, it is still something of a shock when one of the pilots is "set up" on a charge or possession of a potential weapon and summarily executed by the German guards. When the supposed perpetrator of the "set up" is found murdered and the other pilot found crouched over his body, instant assumptions are made and a court martial is organised to try the pilot for murder.
There's plenty more twists and turns in store and all isn't what it seems as many of the characters have secret agendas that their actions do not give away.
As I say, the film does work on a number of different levels. On one level it is a really good straight forward war film, authentic and accurate but also shot with feeling and genuine sensitivity. The scene when Hart crashes his jeep and finds himself in a shallow grave along with other dead soldiers who have been there days is extremely moving and more than shows the futility of war. It works on the level of the intrigue and plot of a court room drama, as Hart is assigned to defend the accused Lt Scott even though he is not qualified as a lawyer. And it also works on the level of a good piece of social comment, Lt Scott's speech as he rails against the oppression and hate of his own side is quite amazing.
There are some great performances too, Colin Farrell is very well cast as the sensitive and caring Hart and there's a great turn from Terrance Howard as the accused Lt Scott. Credit also to Bruce Willis, not so much for his performance, but for not stealing the limelight and letting the more minor roles shine through. Superb turn also from Marcel Iures as the German camp Commandant.
The film is slightly spoilt by the huge slice of American Patriotism Pie Pap at the end whilst really wasn't necessary, but that aside this is an excellent and intelligent War drama.