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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Hart's War
Hart's War
MGM // R // July 9, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted June 29, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


"Hart's War" is the smallest of three theatrical failures that MGM has had this year. While the long-awaited and heavily-edited "Rollerball" met its expected fate, I really thought that both "Windtalkers" and "Hart's War" would meet with more interest than they recieved. "Hart's War" is directed by Gregory Hoblit - although I haven't liked all of the former "LA Law" and "NYPD Blue" director's movies ("Primal Fear", "Fallen", etc.), I've generally felt that he's attempted to make intelligent, entertaining dramas. While "Hart's War" certainly wasn't flawless, Hoblit's picture met my expectations fairly often.

The film stars Colin Farrell (also quite good in the recent "Minority Report") as Lt. Thomas Hart, a soldier who hasn't seen a great deal of war, largely thanks to the fact that his father is a senator. Working intelligence, he offers to transport another officer, but finds himself set-up in a German trap. Caught, he ends up being tortured by the Nazis until he gives up important information and gets sent to a POW camp. Soldiers in the camp are lead by Colonel William McNamara (Bruce Willis) and all of them are watched over by German Wilhelm Visser (Marcel Iures). McNamara believes that Hart gave information while tortured that he should not have and sends him off to live with the enlisted men.

When two African American men, Lt. Lincoln Scott (Terrence Dashon Howard, in a very good performance) and Lamar Archer (Vicellous Reon Shannon) arrive in the camp, racism and hatred starts to become more and more present. Archer is framed by Bedford (Cole Hauser) and shortly after, Scott is accused of Bedford's murder. As the film's first hour comes to a close, "Hart's War" starts to turn into a courtroom drama, as Hart is chosen to defend Scott.

The film's consistently grim tone and generally slow pacing are negative aspects, but the film is helped quite a bit by the performances - Farrell and Willis offer fine lead efforts and there are decent supporting players, too. The film also does a moderately good job pulling the audience along with the hint of a possible plan being hatched by the Willis character; the film keeps the audience (or, at least kept me, that is) fairly unsure of what he's up to until towards near the end. Rachel Portman's score is the one star of the film that's never in front of the camera; a subtle, beautiful and elegant score, the music is very effective and emotional without ever calling attention to itself or attempting to force or underline the drama.

While it won't be considered along with the best of its genre, "Hart's War" is a pretty good drama that those who enjoy similar films will likely find interesting and enjoyable.


The DVD


VIDEO: "Hart's War" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan on this dual-sided disc; the widescreen presentation is dual-layered, while the pan & scan side is single. I was very pleased with the transfer, which seemed even stronger than most of MGM's usually very good presentations that they provide for recent theatrical releases. Sharpess and detail were usually either excellent or fantastic; the picture maintained an exceptionally well-defined appearance throughout the film, even in the film's several dimly-lit sequences.

The only flaw that I really noticed was some minor edge enhancement, but the edge enhancement was minor enough that I really wasn't very bothered by it. The print looked nearly problem-free, as it was crystal clear, with the exception of a speck or two. Pixelation was not seen, nor were any other faults. The film's color palette was nearly nonexistent, as the film's colors were extremely subdued during the entire film. Nonetheless, colors still seemed accurately presented to the intentions of the filmmakers.


SOUND: "Hart's War" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 by MGM. The film's soundtrack really opens up quite well for the action sequences, which present agressive surround use and deep, strong bass. However, there are only a small amount of intense sequences scattered throughout the movie and most of the picture is more of a dialogue-driven drama. However, even many of the dialogue-driven sequences still use Portman's score quite nicely and occasionally provide decent ambient sounds. Dialogue remained clear, crisp and natural throughout.

MENUS: Nicely animated main menu, using clips as backgrounds.

EXTRAS:

Commentaries: This DVD edition includes two audio commentaries: the first is from director Gregory Hoblit, writer Billy Ray and actor Bruce Willis. The other commentary is a solo track from producer David Foster. Hoblit's comments, as they have been for his other commentary tracks, are quite interesting. He provides a terrific amount of detail about the production itself, discussing the kind of obstacles that he faced filming in a foreign country, historical details, as well as what it was like working with the actors. Billy Ray's discussion revolves around the writing process, chatting about material that was not used in the film or details that were changed around during production. Willis offers few comments and sound as if they were taken from an interview. Producer Foster actually does a fine job keeping his solo commentary going, providing a good general overview of the production, as well as several behind-the-scenes stories. A few empty spaces can be found on both tracks, but I still found them enjoyable commentaries.

Also: 10 deleted scenes with optional commentary; a photo gallery and trailers for "Hart's War", "Windtalkers" and "Stargate: SG-1.


Final Thoughts: "Hart's War" isn't a fantastic picture, but it's certainly not a bad film, either. Although slow-paced, it has some good twists and strong performances. MGM's DVD offers very good audio/video quality and a very good set of supplements. Most (especially fans of the genre) will likely find "Hart's War" a good rental, but those who enjoyed the film in theaters may want to seek a purchase of MGM's fine DVD.

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