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Thursday, February 14, 2002

Movie: Hart's War

Posted on Thu, Feb 14, 2002 at 4:00 AM

**1/2
Hart's War
Length: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Studio: MGM
Website: http://www.mgm.com/hartswar/
Release Date: 2002-02-15
Cast: Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard, Vicellous Shannon
Director: Gregory Hoblit
Screenwriter: Billy Ray, Terry George, Jeb Stuart
WorkNameSort: Hart's War
Our Rating: 2.50

Imagine "Stalag 17" as rewritten by John Grisham, and you'll have a sense of "Hart's War." In the final days of World War II, greenhorn lieutenant Thomas Hart (Colin Farrell) is captured by the Nazis and sent to a P.O.W. camp where he comes under the watchful eye of Col. William McNamara (Bruce Willis), the top-ranking U.S. officer on the premises.

When an African-American prisoner apparently murders one of his fellow captives, the Germans allow the Yanks to conduct a military trial, with Hart as attorney for the defense. Believing in such Axis largesse is just one leap of faith required by "Hart's War," which narrowly covers its narrative posterior for an hour or so. It's a bit jarring to hear the commanding Nazi, Col. Wisser (Marcel Iures), opine that the defendant, Lt. Lincoln Scott (Terrence Howard), is being treated better in Deustchland than he would be in Alabama: Who knew the members of the Third Reich were so conversant with the Southern states? Later, however, we learn that Wisser studied at Yale in 1928. Take your base, mein herr.

The second half of the film is pure malarkey. Though Scott is met with contempt by nearly every white P.O.W. save Hart, he remains a paragon of Christian forgiveness, ready to lay down his life for his "friends." Concurrently, the stalag becomes a place where minorities don't merely receive fair trials but are permitted to append their testimony with heart-tugging sermons about the evils of prejudice. Alabama, Schmalabama; Detroit doesn't have courts this liberal.

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