Running Time: 125 mins
Rated: MA 15+
I have to confess that Hogan's Heroes undermined POW stories for me. I don't for a moment underestimate the suffering that the soldiers endured there, but on screen I am always expecting Sergeant Schultz or Colonel Klink to appear. They don't get a run in Hart's War but that doesn't stop this film from borrowing a few other ideas from the long-running TV series.
In the closing months of WWII, Lt Tommy Hart (Farrell), son of a US Senator, is captured by the Nazis and imprisoned in Stalag VI where he comes up against Col William McNamara (Willis). The Colonel is convinced that, during his interrogation with the Gestapo, Hart betrayed secrets to the Germans. McNamara freezes Hart out. When African American pilot, Lt Lincoln Scott (Terence Howard) is accused of the murder of a fellow prisoner, the publicly racist Staff Sergeant Bedford (Cole Hauser), McNamara and Commandant Visser (Marcel Iures) decide to stage a court martial. McNamara appoints Hart, who was in second year at Yale Law School before the war, to defend Scott.
Hart's War crosses over three film genres: war-time adventure, POW escape thriller and courtroom drama. Shot on location in the Czech Republic where director Gregory Hoblit was able to construct a replica of a POW Stalag, this film has a set and huge cast which adds to the strong impression it makes. There is plenty of dramatic tension in this story.
Hoblit, who is best know for his work on NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues, brings a similar in-your-face style to the brutality of this camp. Be warned that the early scenes in this film are much briefer but as gruesome as the opening of Saving Private Ryan.
We always know that there is something going on underneath this compelling story and screenwriters Billy Ray and Terry George provide plenty of secondary material and unexpected turning points to keep up our interest in a film which is probably ten minutes too long.
And given what the producers are paying Bruce Willis to appear, we know that Col. McNamara will have to win out in the end which makes the final pay-off look like a much tougher version of Hogan's Heroes.
Richard Leonard SJ