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Introduction
Everybody loves a good war movie don’t they? Over the years we’ve seen some real classics, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now and Platoon immediately spring to mind.  We’ve also seen war films triumph in visual effects; movies like Saving Private Ryan that reflect the true brutality of war in convincing detail. So, the question has to be asked….where can this genre go, hasn’t it all been said and done a million times already? That very thought was going through my mind as I sat down to watch Hart’s War…

Hart's War
Movie
Colin Farrell plays Lt. Thomas W. Hart, the son of a United States senator. Because of his family connections he’s allocated a rather cushy desk job at Army Field Headquarters. His day generally consists of moving paper around the office, but that soon changes when he volunteers to drive a ranking officer back to his unit near the front lines. A routine vehicle checkpoint along the route soon becomes a battle for his life, but Hart’s struggle to escape is in vain and he is captured…

Hart is taken to a prisoner of war camp along with hundreds of other captured Americans. Belgium 1944 was not the finest hour for the American army with many allied soldiers killed or captured as a result of a German counteroffensive. Many of those captured were taken to camps such as this. On arrival the soldiers are introduced to the German officer in charge of the camp - Col. Werner Visser played wonderfully by Marcel Iures (The Peacemaker). He oversees the camp with a menacing brutality, yet he’s not the 2 dimensional killing machine that you might expect from a Bruce Willis movie.

When the brutal murder of Staff Sgt. Bedford takes place one night, immediately the blame is placed on Lincoln Scott, a young black pilot who had issues with Bedford. For an army where racism is rife this could be the only logical murder suspect. Hart, apparently the only one who doesn’t suffer the same racial prejudice as the others is appointed as defence for Scott, after McNamara (Willis) convinces Visser that he should be given a fair trial and not shot as other suspected criminals are dealt with. The trial is set, but as the case develops, not everything is quite as it seems…

Hart's War
Right then, what did I think? Well I’ve now seen the film a total of three times and I’ve come to the conclusion that this film really grows on you. On my first viewing of Harts War I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. I think I was expecting a lot more action, especially as the trailer markets it as an action packed no brainer.  However, if you close your mind to all the ‘Yippi-Ki-Yay!’ vibes that might be going through your head I think you’ll probably enjoy it. The pacing is slow, but necessary. This is mainly to allow time to develop the character of Lt. Hart early on, which is really crucial for the closing scenes to have the desired effect.

Performances are strong throughout. I haven’t mentioned Bruce Willis in any great detail yet, and for that I’m not really doing him the justice he deserves. His performance is surprisingly subtle here, and hopefully it will open up a lot more straight roles for him in the future. Sure, he’s great as everyones favourite John McCLane but it’s nice to see him proving that he’s got the talent to handle more. Colin Farrell is also proving that he can mix it with the best of them. Most recently he starred alongside Tom Cruise in Minority Report and here he proves that he can play the nice guy convincingly (which isn’t as easy as it sounds). The real scene stealer though is without a doubt Marcel Iures as Visser. He turns what easily could have been a one-dimensional bad guy into a genuinely interesting and strangely compassionate character. I look forward to seeing more of Marcel’s work in the future.

Hart's War
Video
On the whole MGM provide pretty sharp transfers, and they won’t let you down with this one either. The movie is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and the image is as smooth as a babies bottom throughout. The director does make use of filters during the movie, for example the colder outdoor scenes have a general blue tint to them. This is obviously intended, and therefore you cannot criticise the transfer for that. Skin tones etc appear natural throughout and no edge enhancement was noticed for the duration of the movie which you will no doubt be pleased to hear. Overall, no complaints from me.

Sound
It’s a war movie, so naturally….it’s loud. You get an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 track with this one, and it will certainly give your sound setup a decent workout. Surrounds in particular are used frequently, especially during the action sequences as one might expect. There’s also plenty of bass to go around which is just what I like to hear, though the neighbours may not agree! The sequences involving the Mustang's are particularly...urmm..loud! I cannot fault the clarity of speech either, never does it become an issue to hear the characters conversations even when things start blowing up! Another thumbs up from me on this one.

Extras
Considering this is only a one-disc affair, MGM have managed to pack a hell of a lot of stuff onto the disc. Firstly the disc includes two scene specific audio commentaries. The first of these commentaries, and probably the most interesting is with the director Gregory Hoblit, screenwriter Billy Ray, and Bruce Willis. Please don't get too excited though about Willis' participation. He doesn't really say much, infact it sounds as if his input was taken from either a phone conversation or an interview. I found myself chuckling away to myself more than once with some of the splicing in of ‘Yes, absolutely’ by Willis. Did the producer of the disc honestly think they could get away with it?? Another amusing part of the commentary is that they were forced to reshoot the line ‘I’ve seen your tunnel’ because of what certain people believed it implied in test screenings! I’ll leave it up to you to decide why! Other than that, this is an entertaining commentary with plenty of interesting facts. The second commentary is with producer David Foster. It’s apparent from the commentary that Mr Foster isn't quite the spring chicken that he used to be and as such his tone of voice can be a little tiring at times. Still, he certainly knows his stuff and if you’re really into the film you should be able to get enough out of it.

Hart's War
Next on the list is a selection of deleted scenes which are provided with an optional commentary from the director. There are ten deleted scenes in total and it's nice to see that they are all presented in marvellous anamorphic widescreen. Unfortunately there’s not really anything to write home about here. The extra material is all rather uninspiring and most scenes differ only slightly from the scenes left in the final cut. Still, a welcome addition to the disc.

Completing the package is the theatrical trailer which is again presented in anamorphic widescreen and runs to around 2minutes 15seconds. As I mentioned earlier, this trailer really plays best for the action fans among us as it features practically every action set piece in the entire film! Rounding everything off is a selection of photo galleries. These are entitled 'Behind The Scenes', 'The Film', 'The Set' and 'The Poster Shoot'. All pretty self explanatory really, though I should point out that the photos automatically change like a slide show which is rather annoying if you want to get a longer look at one!

Hart's War
Overall
Overall then Hart's War is an entertaining movie that takes a different enough approach to provide an enjoyable couple of hours. Performances on the whole are strong, with the standout performance being from Marcel Iures as the fascinating Nazi officer in charge of the camp. MGM have also provided a pretty good package for fans of the movie with a quality anamorphic transfer and a decent sprinkling of extras. If you're expecting an action movie, this probably won't be your cup of tea, but if you go in with an open mind then you just might like it!


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