Movie Review by Dr Kuma
Starring: Bruce Willis, Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Cole Hauser
Director: Gregory Hoblit
This is a striking and brave piece of cinema that actually discusses situations and reactions that have been avoided in war movies for years. It is not by any stretch of the imagination, a normal POW story.
Forth Generation Military Col. William McNamara (Bruce Willis) is imprisoned in a German POW camp, where, as its highest ranked officer, he commands his fellow inmates. He tries to keep a sense of honour and comraderey between his men, who are always under the watchful eye of the camp’s commander Col. Werner Visser (Marcel Iures).
McNamara is always looking for a way to escape as he feels the war is passing him by. He gets his chance when a murder in the camp amongst his own men, which has racial overtones, gives him the ideal opportunity to put his plans into action. His sole aim is to destroy a nearby ammunitions plant, which the allies think is a shoe factory. To make his plan work, he enlists young Lt. Tommy Hart (an excellent turn by Colin Farrell). The only person who doesn’t seem to know McNamara’s intentions is Hart himself and the black prisoner he is representing in the murder trial, Lt. Lincoln Scott (Terrence Howard).
The story is not so much the Nazi’s against the GI’s but the GI’s against themselves, coming to terms with the small minded racism that keeps them from welcoming the black officers into their camp as comrades-in-arms. It really is a very well constructed screenplay that asks the questions but never preaches the answer. It is beautifully played by the whole cast. Willis is on top form here and he really does seem to rise to the occasion when given a decent role. He always gives a strong performance when the script is well written and here he gives us one of his best as he is surrounded by an exceptionally good cast and saddled with a very intelligent script.
As I have mentioned, this movie seems to concentrate more on escaping prejudices than scaling barb wire, but it does have some striking set pieces that set it apart from other films of the genre that promote characters above characterisation. This is a brave film about the human side of a terrible war and the wasted lives that it brought with it. It is inspiring and disturbing in equal measures and is one of the most intelligent films to come out of Hollywood for some time.
Dr Kuma’s verdict: This is the flip side to THE GREAT ESCAPE, a story about real emotions and real people in a very real and terrible place.