A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has some graphic battle violence. Characters are killed. There's some strong language and some references to drinking. Issues of honor, integrity, equality, justice, and balancing individual rights with the good of the group are all explored.
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What's the story?
In HART'S WAR, Lt. Hart (Colin Farrell) is a soldier who works at a desk, far from enemy lines. He's glad for the chance to get out into the countryside when he gets an opportunity act as driver for a commanding officer. But the officer is killed and Hart is captured by the Germans. They torture him for information, then send him to a prisoner of war camp. The ranking American officer at the camp is Colonel McNamara (Bruce Willis). The German commandant is Colonel Visser. These two have more in common, and perhaps more respect for one another, than they would like to admit. When two black officers arrive, the fragile balance of power is disrupted. Because the officer's quarters are full, they, like Hart, are put in with the enlisted men, who object. During WWII, the armed services were still segregated. When the most outspokenly racist soldier is murdered, a black officer (Terrence Howard) is accused, Hart is assigned as his defense counsel, and a court-martial is set up.
Is it any good?
Hart's War is a big movie that takes on big themes with the courage to give them time and allow for some ambiguity. Although it is set in WWII and has some battle violence, it is primarily a human drama about honor, sacrifice, courage, and dignity, themes that are explored from the farthest reaches as ideals and from the most personal choices made by individuals. About 45 minutes into the story, it begins to become clear that it is not intended to reflect or illuminate the history of about WWII or indeed any war or any history. It is only set in a POW camp as a way to provide a sharper focus for the issues it addresses.
McNamara tells Wasser that Americans don't make distinctions. Wasser, serving more in the role of Socratic interrogator than enemy, points out that America makes a lot of distinctions, especially when it comes to black people. In the POW camp, the black officers face far more mortal danger from their fellow Americans than they do from the Nazis. The story has some surprising twists and turns, and an ending that will spark discussion. The performances are excellent, with Terrence Howard a standout as the accused man.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the segregation that existed in the United States before the 1960's, and the consequences that are still felt today. They should also talk about the choices made by Hart, McNamara, Wasser, and Scott. Which ones surprised you? Which did you agree with?
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