It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Your colonel is throwing you to the wolves," the Nazi commandant of a POW camp tells the young American lieutenant. It looks that way. A white racist American has been murdered, a black officer is charged with the crime, and Lt. Tommy Hart (Colin Farrell) has been assigned to defend him in a court-martial. The Nazi has permitted the trial as a gesture (he is a Yale man, not uncivilized, likes jazz). But Col. William McNamara (Bruce Willis), the senior officer among the American prisoners, doesn't seem much interested in justice.
Because the movie is told mostly from Hart's point of view, we lack crucial pieces of information available to McNamara, and as these are parceled out toward the end of the film, the meaning of the events shifts. But one underlying truth does not change: Racism during World War II in America and in the Army is a reality that undercuts duty, patriotism and truth.
As the movie opens, Hart has been captured, interrogated, and sent to Stalag VI in Belgium. He is a senator's son, destined for a desk job. At the POW camp he is cross-examined by Willis, who senses he's lying about the interrogation, and assigns him to a barracks otherwise filled with enlisted men. It's a problem of space, Willis explains, and a few days later the officers' barracks is again too crowded to accommodate two black Air Corps pilots who have been shot down: Lt. Lincoln Scott (Terrence Howard) and Lt. Lamar Archer (Vicellous Shannon).
Bunking with black men does not sit well with Vic Bedford (Cole Hauser), a staff sergeant who calls the pilots "flying bellhops." Soon a tent spike, which could be used as a weapon, is found under Archer's mattress, and he's summarily shot by the Nazis, without a trial. Since it is pretty clear that Bedford planted the spike, no one is very surprised not long after when the man is found dead with Scott standing over his body.