Hart’s War (Gregory Hoblit, 2002)
[originally posted 7Mar2002]
Gregory Hoblit (Primal Fear, Fallen) gives us the latest film in his inconsistent career with Hart’s War. Hollywood has a storied history of trying, and failing in spectacular fashion, to adapt John Katzenbach novels to the big screen effectively. While Hart’s War isn’t as stellar a failure as Mean Season, it’s not much to write home about, either.
It’s not so much that there are many bad things to say about Hart’s War. In fact, there’s very little bad to say about it. The main characters are all played by capable actors, the pace is solid if pedestrian, the plot twists at all the usual places. Most everything about the movie is done well. The problem is that there’s nothing to distinguish it; there’s a difference between doing something well and doing it well enough that it will be talked about in reverent tones half a century from now. One thing very much worth noting, though: it’s been a very, very long time since any movie to come out of Hollywood has bucked the trend of political correctness and dared not to cast a single woman in a main role (in fact, the only women to be seen anywhere in the movie are extras with less than thirty seconds of screen time). Last time I saw that was in John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece The Thing. Kudos to Hoblit and co. for not trying to add a female lead.
What few things there are to say about Hart’s War that can be categorized negatively are mostly opinions of style. Bruce Willis, who gets top billing, should have gotten second billing to Colin Farrell (of Ballykissangel fame), who actually plays Tom Hart. Willis, who’s been quietly turning himself into one of Hollywood’s most respected actors in the last five years, actually comes off here as a little too restrained. He seems more like a monk at a Zen monastery than he does the ranking POW in a Nazi stalag. And those plot twists are a bit too predictable; once you’ve got all the pieces to the puzzle, putting it together is child’s play. You’ll get it done a lot faster than the movie’s hapless characters. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does tend to make the movie’s closing scenes seem somewhat anticlimactic.
All in all, it’s a good way to kill a couple of hours. At least it’s not as bad as the trailers would have you believe. ** ½
(*Yes, I know that’s Terrence Howard and not Carl Weathers. That’s the joke…)