In December 1944 in snowy Belgium, Lt. Thomas Hart (Colin Farrell), a military attaché, is captured by Germans via a ruse: Those desperate German soldiers of a dying Reich who speak like Americans and dress in American uniforms. He is sent to POW prison, Stalag VI A in Augsburg, Germany. There he meets German commandant, Col. Werner Visser (Marcel Iures, in a marvelous performance).
Almost immediately, he is greeted by Col. McNamara (Bruce Willis), the highest ranking prisoner of war in the camp. After sniffing out Hart (Hart's reaction to a most grueling interrogation by Deutsch Officer Lutz), he assigns Hart to an enlisted men's barracks, Building 27, instead of the one for officers. Apparently the Germans did allow the highest ranking POW a degree of power in the encampments. Hart blends in fairly well as he learns the ins and outs of survival, like the value of cigarettes. Before long two African-American Air Force officers, recently captured by the Germans, are placed by McNamara in the enlisted men's quarters. Staff Sergeant Vic Bedford (Cole Hauser) makes no pretense of his displeasure. Not only is Bedford bigoted, but he also knows how to obtain favors from the German guards.
When Bedford is found murdered, suspicion is focused on one of the Negroes, Lincoln Scott (Terrance Howard). The other had already been shot for attempted escape after being set up (by Bedford). With approval of Col. McNamara, Scott is placed on trial by the Americans. The aim of the trial can be seen as a way for Americans to maintain their dignity under trying circumstances. McNamara assigns Hart as Scott's defense council, even though the former has only attained progress as a second-year Yale Law School aspirant. Col. Visser agrees and supports the trial, which consumes much of the second half of the feature. It soon becomes obvious that McNamara is at odds with Hart, and has motives that transcend justice. The privileged Hart has much to learn.
On the other hand, Visser is sympathetic to the lieutenant, with whom he discloses his graduation from Yale back in 1928. He even gives the conflicted Hart a copy of the American Manual for Courts- Martial to assist him. He knows that McNamara "threw him to the wolves." Privately he tells Hart that he enjoys American culture, like reading Mark Twain; he also plays his Negro jazz records, a collection that very much relaxes him even though it is "verboten" in the Reich. Visser is obviously not a typical nasty Nazi stereotype.
Towards the end we realize that there is a shifting of events: the trial really has nothing to do with Lincoln Scott. Much about the camp was a lie; Bedford was a known snake. There is something larger afloat, an act of greater military importance that is portended earlier. As this is a World War II movie, perhaps this fact should have been expected. But it is distracting to the viewer, and will not work for many. Some may even feel that the story-line is no better than mediocre.
The feature is produced by David Ladd, Alan Ladd's son. The cinematography, with its wintry bluish tone and stark, snowy scenes, works very well. The claustrophobia in each of the unheated barracks can be felt outside of the screen. In this writer's opinion, you can do worse than watch.
Action / Drama / War
Action / Drama / War
Fourth-generation Army Col. William McNamara is imprisoned in a brutal German POW camp. Still, as the senior-ranking American officer, he commands his fellow inmates, keeping a sense of honor alive in a place where honor is easy to destroy, all under the dangerous eye of the Luftwafe vetran Col. Wilhelm Visser. Never giving up the fight to win the war, McNamara is silently planning, waiting for his moment to strike back at the enemy. A murder in the camp gives him the chance to set a risky plan in motion. With a court martial to keep Visser and the Germans distracted, McNamara orchestrates a cunning scheme to escape and destroy a nearby munitions plant, enlisting the unwitting help of young Lt. Tommy Hart. Together with his men, McNamara uses a hero's resolve to carry out his mission, ultimately forced to weigh the value of his life against the good of his country.
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October 17, 2012 at 06:08 AM