Audience’s hate being duped. In many cases, they’ll respond with their wallets, and that’s exactly what happened with Hart’s War. $70 million out, and a meager $20 million in is a sign your audience isn’t happy, and in this case, with good reason. What’s advertised as an all-out German P.O.W. escape is something else entirely, and not for the better.
Bruce Willis supposedly stars as Col. William McNamara, but the film belongs to Colin Ferrell, playing Thomas Hart. Captured in the line of duty, the movie quickly proceeds to his torture and then imprisonment. There is little character development for the first hour, dragging Hart’s War down with minor occurrences in the plot. You hardly know these character before expecting to feel for their plight.
At nearly the exact moment the second hour begins, the film quickly changes to a courtroom drama. It’s unexpected as it takes over the minor plot Hart’s War offers. Performances are fine, particularly Marcel Iures as the German officer in charge of the camp. It’s simply not enough to carry this story.
Action is brief compared to what the trailer may suggest. There’s an air raid situated near the start, and then a rather pointless one-on-one air duel towards the middle. The movie is otherwise barren.
Even if the courtroom drama proves gripping, the ending more than ruins the effect. Without divulging spoilers, it’s more of less a work on the audience much like it is the German officers. It’s going a long way to get to where it ends up. Scenes of hangings and executions prove unmoving with this script.
Hart’s War offers little to help it stand out. The trial that becomes a centerpiece far too late into the film is nothing more than a sidetrack to the real plot, and the numerous P.O.W. films out there make it hard to justify its existence. Fine performances all around can’t save this slow paced, plodding war movie.
Fox dishes out a MPEG-2 transfer for Hart’s War, and it’s loaded with problems despite some bright spots. Edge enhancement is a noticeable although sporadic issue throughout. Lack of detail (either due to MPEG-2 or DNR) is a huge problem, muddying distance shots to the level of DVD. This is a dark movie, and thankfully the black levels stay solid to create an outstanding level of contrast. Detail can be high, and one only needs to look at the confrontation between Willis and Iures near the end to see how strong it can be. It’s a shame it’s not like that all the time.
For a movie dialogue driven, it can be awfully low at times. Assuming you’re playing at your normal level, dialogue will be low and the few action scenes will blare loud enough for the neighbors to file a noise complaint. That aside, bass is spectacular and deep. The surrounds are engaging when needed. However, the latter only occurs during action and the rest of the film is flat and lifeless. It’s entirely center driven.
Never mind that the DVD contained a commentary and some deleted scenes. Fox didn’t care enough to include them on this Blu-ray, settling for a few trailers instead.