8:00 PM, 19th October, 2002
Set in a German P.O.W. camp in WWII, Hart's War doesn't augur the happiest of situations, and this mood persists throughout the film. Col. William McNamara (Willis), is the camp's highest-ranking American officer. He commands his fellow inmates under the dangerous, ever-watchful eye of SS Major Wilhelm Visser (Iures). A murder in the camp results in a court martial and a cunning escape scheme. Essential to McNamara's plan is the unwilling young Lt. Tommy Hart (Farrell), a deskbound officer captured in the final months of the war. Ultimately, the characters are forced to weigh the value of their lives against the good of their country.
The beginning of the film is very good: the capture of the American officer shows the horrific nature of war, and the scenes of winter and the P.O.W.s' transit through it marching and by train are quite evocative. Unfortunately, the action winds down to a more routine mating of courtroom drama and escape movie. In the later scenes the major characters try to outdo each other in the selflessness sweepstakes, almost tripping over each other, shouting, 'Let me be the sacrificial lamb!' 'No, me!' 'No, pick me! Pick me!' While lacking something overall, Hart's War is an interesting and worthy attempt, even when it does veer dangerously close to self-parody.
10:00 PM, 19th October, 2002
Three-star General Irwin (Redford) is transferred to a maximum-security military prison, called 'The Castle' for disobedience in a mission. The prison warden, Colonel Winter (Gandolfini), has a deep admiration for the decorated Irwin, but Irwin does not like Winter's methods of keeping order and discipline. Winter runs the prison with an iron fist and has a penchant for 'accidentally' killing those prisoners who defy him. Soon, Irwin decides to teach Winter a lesson by taking over command of the facility. When Winter decides to join in what he thinks is a game, it may already be too late to win.
This psychological game of chess is more like warfare (which is appropriate in a military prison). The king's fight with his new opponent is powerful and riveting to watch. And the supporting cast (Delroy Lindo, Steve Burton, Mark Ruffalo, Clifton Collins Jr.) make a very strong ensemble. This is a very good film: each strategic move is played out and the audience feels the suspense of the next move and its resulting counter-attack. The performances of Gandolfini and Lindo nearly steal the show, but Redford is at his best. This is an intelligent movie and worth seeing.