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Gregory Hoblit
Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Terrence Dashon Howard, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Cole Hauser, Rory Cochrane, Linus Roache, Marcel Iures
Billy Ray, Terry George

Heroes Are Measured By What They Do.
Box Office:
Budget $70 million.
Opening weekend $8.907 million on 2459 screens.
Domestic gross $19.076 million.
Rated R for some strong war violence and language.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Standard 1.33:1
Australian English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround
Spanish Dolby Surround
Portuguese Dolby Surround
English, Spanish, French, Portuguese

Runtime: 125 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 7/9/2002

• Audio Commentary with Director Gregory Hoblit, Screenwriter Billy Ray and Actor Bruce Willis
• Audio Commentary with Producer David Foster
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Photo Gallery
• Trailers

Score soundtrack

Search Products:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Hart's War (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Maybe folks finally have tired of World War II dramas. Then again, maybe folks just donít like World War II dramas produced by MGM. Back to back in 2002, theyíve released two box office disappointments: Windtalkers and Hartís War. With large budgets and some big-name talent behind them, neither found much of an audience.

Iíve not yet seen Windtalkers, so I donít know if this is a loss or not. Like most other people, I didnít take in Hartís War during its theatrical run; the film grossed a mere $19 million in the US. However, now that Iíve watched it, I can indicate that I feel it deserved a better fate. This isnít one of the all-time great war flicks, but it definitely provides a fairly compelling experience.

Hartís War follows the experiences of its titular character, Lt. Thomas Hart (Colin Farrell) during World War II. From his cushy job at a European command post, in December 1944 Hart gets a detail to drive a superior officer to a particular destination. However, Nazi soldiers intercept them, kill the other officer, and soon imprison Hart. They torture him to provide information but Hart apparently resists. Eventually he ends up in a POW camp with many others, where he meets Col. William McNamara (Bruce Willis). As the ranking US officer there, he billets Hart in an enlisted building, where Tom fits in reasonably well until a couple of new arrivals come to the camp: a pair of black pilots Lts. Lamar Archer and Lincoln Scott (Vicellous Shannon and Terence Howard).

The enlisted men donít take kindly to this action, and though Hart tries to defend them, matters degenerate, largely thanks to the nasty racism of Staff Sgt. Vic Bedford (Cole Hauser). The issues come to a head when Bedford apparently plants forbidden material under Archerís bunk, which leads the Germans to execute him. Eventually Bedford ends up dead under questionable circumstances, and German Colonel Visser (Marcel Iures) wants to execute Scott, who seems to be the prime suspect. However, McNamara convinces Visser to allow a trial. He selects Hart as counsel for Lt. Scott.

As this endeavor begins, other tensions simmer beneath the surface. Although he denies it publicly, Hart squealed to the Nazis during his interrogation. McNamara knows this but doesnít confront Hart. Instead, McNamara displays his attitude during the trial, at which he acts as judge. The two eventually come to a head when Hart challenges McNamaraís lack of bias. The trial covers much of the film and contains a mix of plot twists that reveal a number of surprises about the reality behind McNamaraís operation.

The blurb on the back of this DVD states this: ďEnlisting the help of a young lieutenant (Farrell) in a brilliant plot against his captors, McNamara risks everything on a mission to free his menÖ and change the outcome of the war.Ē This synopsis gets some basic facts right but totally misrepresents the film. While the text makes the movie sound like a rousing escape drama, the truth seems very different. Thatís not a bad thing, for it makes Hartís War more compelling and intriguing than it could have been.

Part of the flickís strength stems from its relative complexity. Had it resembled the synopsis, War would have been simplistic and jingoistic, but instead it manages to become something richer. None of the characters manage to demonstrate tremendous depth, but most also show a greater breadth than one might expect. Of the main roles, only Scott comes across as one-dimensional. The unjustly accused black man, he exists to exhibit righteous indignation and honor among scoundrels. I donít mind this simplicity, though, for like Bedfordís ignorant racism, it seems necessary as a plot device.

Happily, the three main participants - Hart, McNamara and Visser - donít come across with the same level of simplicity. Each surprises us in some way. Hart breaks under interrogation, McNamara shows a willingness to ignore protocol for his own ends, and Visser offers a level of humanity not often seen of movie Nazis. Again, I canít say that any of them seem like tremendously well developed roles, but they grow and breathe better than I expected.

Hartís War consists of a few too many shocking plot twists, but I still enjoyed it due to its general indifference toward the easy path. Many WWII dramas degenerate into rah-rah pro-USA escapades, and that tendency seems even more likely after 9/11. It sure looks like MGM will tout the movie in that tone, given the wholly inaccurate ads Iíve seen attached to it. Despite those concerns, I liked Hartís War and felt it was a fairly rich and involving drama.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B+ / Bonus B

Hartís War appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided DVD-14; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Overall, the image looked quite solid, with only a few problems that kept it from becoming genuinely terrific.

Sharpness looked excellent. The movie always remained crisp and detailed, and I saw virtually no signs of softness. The film seemed distinct and accurate. Jagged edges and moirť effects created no concerns, but I did notice some slight edge enhancement. The DVD presented no print flaws that I could discern, though, as it appeared clean and fresh.

War presented an extremely desaturated palette. The movie looked almost black and white at times as it offered stark visual dimensions. This meant I couldnít rate much in the way of color, but the image seemed accurate within these limitations. Black levels looked dense and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately thick but not excessively dark. As a whole, I thought Hartís War gave us a consistently satisfying image.

Also positive was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Hartís War. Unlike many war flicks, this one didnít provide too many opportunities for fireworks, but it worked quite well nonetheless. The forward soundstage offered good stereo spread for music and effects. The latter elements blended together well and components moved neatly across the spectrum. In addition, pieces seemed well localized and accurately placed. As for the rear channels, they kicked in nicely during the occasional battle sequences. Those scenes provided accurate and involving audio that brought them to life.

Audio quality seemed very good. Dialogue was natural and warm, with no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded vivid and bright, and the score seemed to demonstrate solid fidelity. Effects presented nicely accurate elements that presented a good impact when necessary. Explosions and other loud sounds showed fine bass response that shook the room but didnít seem overly boomy. I felt the soundtrack of Hartís War was too limited in regard to scope to earn anything above a ďB+Ē, but it still worked well.

This DVD release of Hartís War packs a decent roster of extras. We start with two separate audio commentaries. The first involves director Gregory Hoblit, writer Billy Ray, and actor Bruce Willis. Hoblit and Ray were recorded together for their running, screen-specific remarks, while Willisí moments were taped separately and edited into the piece. The DVDís producers tried very hard to make it sound as though Willis sat with the other two, but this was clearly not the case. Willis didnít offer much useful information; he spoke infrequently and tended to provide bland statements.

The other two did much better. On the negative side, this commentary did suffer from a few too many empty spots, but when Hoblit and Ray gave us information, it usually seemed solid. They covered a lot of aspects of the production, with a particular emphasis on the story-telling side of things. Both men appeared more than willing to question their own work, and the track was more honest than usual. They discussed mistakes they made and changes theyíd prefer. Overall, the commentary offered a compelling look at the film.

Next we get a commentary from producer David Foster, who sat alone for this running. Screen-specific affair. At times, Foster provided some good notes, especially in regard to the history behind the project. He discussed the author of the original book on which the movie was based and told us some useful facts there. He also added occasional remarks about the production that fleshed out the experience. However, a lot of his comments seemed fairly bland, and a great deal of time often passed between his statements. Much of the track suffered from dead air. Overall, Fosterís commentary seemed bland and without much to make it worth a listen.

After these two commentaries, we find a collection of 10 deleted scenes. These last between 31 seconds and 117 seconds for a total of 11 minutes, five seconds of material. Some of these seemed interesting, but I could understand why most failed to make the cut. The majority were redundant or they telegraphed the action too strongly.

One can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from director Hoblit and writer Ray. Their material appears sporadically and doesnít always provide much information. They occasionally let us know why the scenes were cut, but other times they donít, and some full scenes pass without any remarks. Some of the deletions were explained during the main commentary - such as the blackface bit - but Hoblit and Ray still should have covered that topic here. Their commentary for the deleted scenes doesnít add much.

A few other extras round out the package. We get trailers for Hartís War as well as Stargate SG-1/Jeremiah and Windtalkers. We also find a Photo Gallery that splits into four subdomains: ďBehind the ScenesĒ (nine stills), ďThe FilmĒ (24 shots), ďThe SetĒ (four images), and ďThe Poster ShootĒ (16 pictures). This area seems decent but bland.

Hartís War offered a positive experience I didnít really expect. Instead of a gung-ho war flick, it provided a reasonably introspective and complex film that presented some problems but still seemed compelling and interesting. The DVD offers very good picture and sound along with a fairly good collection of extras. Fans of war dramas definitely should give Hartís War a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5625 Stars Number of Votes: 32
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