WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Colin Farrell stars as Thomas Hart, a young army officer taken prisoner and sent to a WWII German POW camp. Once there, Col. McNamara (Willis), the camp's ranking officer involves him in a mysterious plot when an American soldier is murdered and a court martial is ordered.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
If you're a war movie buff then this offering will definitely tickle your fancy, despite it's relatively slow pace. The film is a an interesting depiction of life in the German Stalags and if you've ever seen Steve McQueen in THE GREAT ESCAPE, perhaps the most famous POW film ever, you'll recognize many of the elements in HART'S WAR. The film unfortunately gets bogged down a bit and transforms into a courtroom drama and for the greater part of the film, the Nazi guards and the prison camp itself become a background for a racially charged story in which a black officer stands accused of the murder of a bigoted enlisted man. Although essential to the story, it somehow throws you off and although the film redeems itself with a great ending, it takes a long while for the payoff to finally arrive. Lucky for us, when it does arrive, it comes through real nice.
Bruce Willis sort of cruises through this one and although his pivotal role does offer some emotional satisfaction, his performance is pretty straightforward. He plays a tough, no-nonsense officer who will fight the Germans with every ounce of strength in him. Farrell also puts in a nice performance but the show belongs to Marcel Iures, as the tough yet seemingly weakened Col. Werner Visser. He goes from a cynical a-hole, taunting the prisoners and ordering executions to a drunken and broken man, babbling about the loss of his own son and his time on the front lines in the first Great War. I always liked actors who were able to make the Germans look human, since they're way too often portrayed as nothing more than evil robots.
The flick also happens to look great. Set in December of 1944, a few months before the liberation, the movie has some really great color to it and although most of these colors are very bleak and dark, the images are very vivid and the cold look of the film fits in nicely with the winter temperatures. Some exciting action sequences are also peppered throughout, including a strafing attack on a train by allied aircrafts and a dogfight over the camp. For fans of the gorier scenes, you'll get to see some brain splatter about five minutes in as well. Overall, it was a pretty fun film to watch.
The extra features begin with two feature-length commentaries. The first one is hosted by director Gregory Hoblit, writer Billy Ray and star Bruce Willis. Unfortunately for me, I was mainly hoping to listen to Willis but aside from introducing himself at the beginning, he wasn't heard from much, save for some interventions here and there. It sounded to me like his comments were actually recorded separately and edited into the commentary. I hate it when they do that. You're left with a typical director/writer commentary in which they go back and forth about scenes that were left out, included or never shot and about a few tidbits about the shots on the screen. The second track is hosted by producer David Foster and if you've read some of my previous reviews you already know what I think of producer commentaries, which is to say...not much. Basically, the guy signed the checks so it's only fair to listen to him talk about "producer stuff" like time limitations, integrity to history and on and on and on...
Next up is a set of 10 deleted scenes. The scenes are actually pretty damn good and they're available with optional director commentary. It's a shame because the film does have a bit of a running time problem (125 minutes) and although it's understandable that they were left out, they would indeed have been fun to see in the film.
A picture gallery is the last thing of substance on the DVD, with set pictures, production stills, poster shots and some more stuff. If you have three minutes to flip though them, go ahead but if you don't, you won't be missing anything worth writing home about. Other than that, you can go straight to the theatrical trailer, which happens to be pretty attractive as well.
Overall, the film itself is very satisfying but the DVD's extra features are a bit of a disappointment, despite the great quality of the disc. If you loved the film, then I could see a purchase in my crystal ball, since it does hold some re-watch value but if you're not a fan of WWII flicks, I would recommend that you rent it first. Either way, I don't see much disappointment in either decision.