Hart´s War (2002): A Dubious POW Legal Melodrama

There are numerous movies I could have watched while lying in bed with a cold the other day. I have a big “soon-to-be-watched” DVD pile and choice is far from scarce. There are many war movies and – believe it or not – a lot of non war movies to choose from. I didn’t really feel like watching anything too heavy so Hart’s War seemed like a good option.

It actually still seemed like a very good option more than half an hour into the movie but then it started to dawn on me that this was one of those hybrid movies, that are neither this, nor that nor anything else. Yeah well, seems as if disappointment is the daughter of bad choice and false expectations.

To cut a long story short: it was not my cup of tea. Although I appreciate the subgenre of the legal drama, this came across as a pseudo legal drama that I found less than convincing.

One good thing: Hart´s War is another movie that can be added to the small list of WWII movies with African American soldiers in it (see my post on African American Soldiers in War Movies).

Apart from that, you watch it and forget it and think: Too bad it could have been good if… If what?

What’s the story? A young law student, Lt. Hart (Colin Farrell), get’s captured by a German patrol while driving someone through the woods and ends up as POW after having been tortured before  giving away some information. The highest ranking officer among the prisoners in the camp, Col McNamara (Bruce Willis) immediately dislikes him as he despises him for lying about the fact that he has collapsed after a few short days under torture. As a sort of punishment he is not allowed to stay in the barracks with the other higher ranking officers but must join the barracks of the privates and the lower ranks.

This does not work out too bad until the day two black American pilots (Terrence Howard and Vicellous Reon Shannon), two of the Tuskegee Men in fact, appear and things get nasty. Full-blown racism hits them. Hatred and aggression follow until one is executed and the other one falsely accused of the murder of a white soldier.

Even though he has only been a second year law student before the war, Hart gets appointed as the defence attorney but after a while it gets clear that it is all a sham. Secret things are happening that need a cover-up. I found the justification of what is happening morally dubious. The end does not always justify the means.

The rest of the movie is a pathetic illustration of pride, honour and glory. Highly melodramatic.

The two black actors are good, Colin Farrell is quite all right but Bruce Willis is a parody of himself. Or maybe he had something in his eye. The height of his acting seemed to consist of standing there with one eye half closed and trying to look super imposing. (Just to make things clear, I do normally like Bruce Willis.)

Meaningless pseudo-court-drama with a melodramatic ending. 2.5/5 points (2.5 points are for cinematography, choice of the topic racism in the military… Forget the rest).


7 thoughts on “Hart´s War (2002): A Dubious POW Legal Melodrama

  1. TPC says:

    Of those kinds of movies that are neither this nor that kind, I guess you are calling them hybrids, when Platoon came out, soon after came Hamburger Hill and around that same time, a movie came out called Gardens of Stone with James Caan. I know I didn’t really view it favorably but perhaps I should give it another chance. Anyway, I am just mentioning this as another ‘war’ movie out there but I don’t know if it is worth the effot. Of course, Gardens of Stone means a Military cemetary. A lot of the action centers around the Arlington Military Cemetary in Washington DC during the Vietnam war but does not take place in Vietnam. From what I remember it is more about the duties of those who bury the dead.

    Now a footnote and I apologize for the detail and if it is too off topic, please let me know.

    On the subject, gloomy I know of military cemetaries, I once found this website where indeed, in Eritrea in the Horn of Africa, there is a well kept cemetary for the Italian war dead. http://www.asmera.nl/eritrea2003/eritrea-2003-1012.htm

    Of course, this is connected to the Ethiopian invasion by Italy in the 1930s.

    Bob Marley and a lot of Reggae always made out Haile Sellasie to be, well, actually God I believe, but I read up on the conflict over there. Actually, the small country of Eritrea north of Ethiopia were allied with the Italians and the Ethiopians, though the people are actually basically the same and same language are ancient enemies (maybe similar to the Former Yugoslavia). That website shows in fact, the Eritreans welcomed the Italians yet, we rarely hear about that.

    For balance, apparently there is a British Cemetary in Eritrea too.

    “Keren is home to a number of graveyards. The British War Cemetery lies off the Agordat road north-west of the town. In it, 440 Commonwealth troops lie buried, including the Hindi soldier Subadar RichpalRam of the Sixth Rajputana Rifles, who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military decoration for bravery. There is a visitor’s book here, which is an interesting read. Just past the cemetery, a small statue of the Madonna watches over the road from Agordat in the west. The well-tended Italian Cemetery lies close by. ”


    Sorry, I hope this is not too off topic and it is a bit gloomy but as long as I mentioned Gardens of Stone, one of the lesser known movies, I thought this footnote might be of interest.

    • Not off topic for me on the very contrary, found this highly interesting and will look at the links later when I have more time. “All About War Movies” was meant to leave some space for many things that were loosely related. As I had a post a while back “On Death and Dying”, this is not too gloomy for me. A movie about those who have to handle the dead, the very final stage of those who come back… An interesting angle. I believe I heard about Eritrea, would have to have closer look on Italian websites, maybe. Maybe there is even an Italian movie.

  2. TPC says:

    Whoops, I hope that post was not too offtopic but this one IS NOT.

    First we will call this trivia in fact because it deals with the last two reviews you have posted!!

    What movie combines Sylvester Stallone with being a Prisoner of War???

    I’m sure you know this one.

    Add in, the sport of soccer/football I happened to see a ball on the main page as well for some movie.

    Okay, also, the movie stars Pele, Bobby Moore, Ossie Ardiles, of course, these are all players and surely I missed some. Well, I don’t need to say what the movie is now, it is obvious or one can find out with all of those names and a good websearch.

    • I am a bit biased when it comes to Stallone… So I have not seen the movie (not revealing the name here on purpose, as people like quizes…). Anyway, do you recommend it? Or just mentioned it because it covers the topic POW as well?

      • TPC says:

        With 20/20 hindsight, I think the Stallone/Pele movie is a good movie to watch with suspense, a clear plot. At the least, I’ve seen it called the best soccer/football movie ever.

  3. warmoviebuff says:

    It’s been a while since I saw it, but I remember not being impressed. I love some of your lines, especially “disappointment is the daughter of bad choice and false expectations.” I also like the hybrid tag. You are spot on with that. TPC’s reference to “Victory” is another good example of a hybrid. Without a doubt the best WWII soccer movie! Better than all the other ones. I show it to my soccer team and encourage my goalies to pay close attention to Sylvester Stallone’s goalie skills. I have no idea why he did not win an Oscar as Best Actor.

    • Glad you like some of the lines.
      Stallone. Lol. Maybe he will one day… I should watch it, it sounds as if I would find it hilarious.
      Too be honest, i think Hart’s War was more entertaining than The Way Back.

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