Directed by Gregory Hoblit, starring Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard, Cole Hauser, Marcel Iures and Linus Roache.
Irish actor Colin Farrell's rise up the Hollywood ranks has been nothing short of miraculous. Having been noticed on the strength of a series of TV and brief film appearances, Farrell landed the role of roughneck Texan recruit Roland Bozz in Joel Schumacher's 'Tigerland' in 2000. His riveting performance garnered him a Boston Society of Film Critics Best Actor Award, and instantly put him on the upper echelons of Tinseltown's casting lists. But with increasing choice comes increasing pitfalls, and although Farrell comes through 'Hart's War' relatively unscathed, he'd be well advised to be a little more choosy in future.
The Dubliner plays Lieutenant Tommy Hart, a second year Yale law student who's having a cushy WWII until he's captured after an ambush and sent to the Nazi POW camp, Stalag VI. The young Lt instantly clashes with the ranking American officer in the camp, Colonel William McNamara (Willis). The latter is a soldier who takes his stripes seriously, and continues to emphasise his superior rank despite the fact that his life, and those of his fellow POWs, is solely in the hands of the German oppressors.
When two African-American pilots join the camp, the mood among the Yankee prisoners takes another dip. Festering racism results in a series of camp factions, with McNamara retaining the loyalty of his troops and Hart trying his best to stay in everyone's good books. Tensions escalate when a murder takes place in the camp and McNamara appoints Hart, against his will, as counsel for the defence in a court martial approved by the Nazis. During the legal process, however, Hart discovers that all is not what it seems, and that the proceedings may be a cover for a bigger operation.
Adapted from John Katzenbach's novel by Northern Irish co-writer Terry George, 'Hart's War' is a perfect example of a film that remains anchored in mediocrity from beginning to end. It plods along like a chronic asthmatic, meandering to a conclusion that's both irritating and implausible. To his credit, director Gregory Hoblit ('Primal Fear', 'Frequency') vividly depicts the claustrophobia and physical hardship of the POW camp, but oddly forgets about Farrell, who bounds from scene to scene without a hair out of place. Speaking of hair, Willis' hairpiece is laughable, which is no real shame on the make-up artists, considering the shape of his cranium.
The most pleasant surprise here is Romanian actor Marcel Iures as the charismatic German Colonel, Werner Visser. Basing his performance on the war baddies from the old school, Iures' turn is physically compelling – coolly shark-like one minute, mercilessly menacing the next.
Thankfully, Farrell comes out of this disappointment with no lasting damage to his burgeoning reputation. However, barring a series of wretched roles in the next few years, 'Hart's War' won't be mentioned among the midpoints of his career, let alone highlights.