Race war. Howard and Hauser face off while Farrell watches...
dir Gregory Hoblit|
scr Billy Ray, Terry George
with Colin Farrell, Bruce Willis, Terrence Howard, Marcel Iures, Cole Hauser, Linus Roache, Vicellous Shannon, Rory Cochrane, Adrian Grenier, Sam Worthington, Michael Weston, Joe Spano
release US 22.Feb.02; UK 26.Apr.02
This involving film makes excellent use of its setting to tell a tricky dramatic story. It makes a few fundamental mistakes along the way--mostly due to Willis' star power--but it's still thoroughly entertaining. The story centres on Lt Tom Hart (Farrell), caught by the Nazis and sent to a POW camp in the bleakest German winter. He takes his place among the prisoners, who are under the "command" of their senior officer Col McNamara (Willis), by way of the camp's commandant (Iures). Then two black pilots (Howard and Shannon) arrive and bring out serious racial problems, mostly in the hotheaded Sgt Bedford (Hauser). Soon there's a murder, followed by a court-martial hearing, all while something else is going on behind the scenes.
The complexities of the plot keep us gripped, even if it's all fairly routine POW stuff (and reminiscent of Hogan's Heroes, right down to details of design and social structure). Hart is such an intriguing character, and so well-played by Farrell, that we travel with him willingly through the story's more outrageous twists. The problem is that Willis, who is very good in what is actually a supporting role, is given Hollywood star billing for a beefed-up character who throws things out of balance, especially at the end. And there are also more than a few unnecessary voice-overs from Hart that undermine the otherwise intelligent script and impeccable production (a plane crash sequence is especially impressive). There are a lot of interesting things going on here, and the examination of honour, courage and sacrifice is powerful stuff indeed. If only the filmmakers had been able to keep the characters in balance ... and avoid bashing their point home.
|"Don't go see this expecting to see a lot of action - there is some, but that is not what this movie is all about. It ain't Hogan's Heroes, where the prisoners are friends with the guards, either. And I thought Bruce Willis was Hart - but he isn't. He plays Col William McNamara - a 4th generation army brat who lives and breathes military life. Colin Farrell plays Lt Thomas Hart - son of a senator, assigned desk duty because they want to protect the senator's son, and he of course does not want that protection. Hart offers to drive an officer back to his base and ends up captured by the Germans. Upon arrival to prison camp, McNamara quickly figures out Hart was broken early in interrogation and has him bunking with the enlisted men. Two African American flyers also end up in camp, and remember this is the 40s, so whites don't like mixing with blacks. A man is murdered, and one of the African American flyers is fingered as the murderer - so McNamara assigns Hart, who has not yet completed law school, to defend him. This is more of a mystery, with layers of hidden stories - there is another reason to have this big trial in camp. I liked this movie - but don't go see it expecting a lot of shoot 'em up, blowing up action sequences. There is a good plot, leading up to a climatic ending. I think those who see this will enjoy it." --Laurie T, Minneapolis 24.Feb.02|