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The key scene in the movie takes place in Yemen, where an unruly crowd of local men, women
and children demonstrate outside the U.S. embassy. Everything hinges on whether the crowd (a)
was armed, and (b) fired first or if Colonel Childers exceeded his orders and reacted based
on anger or a darker motive. According to U.S. military law as explained in the film, Childers
could be found guilty of murder for killing 83 noncombatants. But if some of them were carrying
weapons and opened fire, he may be found innocent. The prosecution asserts Childers order to
fire was based on personal fear, racism, or confusion. The defence and Childers responds with
statements that he was in fear for his Marines' lives and was in compliance with his orders
and the rules of engagement. Previous actions by the then Lieutenant Childers in Vietnam were
introduced by the prosecution to show a history of misconduct, including a witness to the
original actions in Vietnam. The actions in Vietnam, shown as a flashback in the first few
minutes of the film, revolved around an ambush of then-Lieutenant Hodges' platoon by a Colonel
Binh Le Cao, a North Vietnamese officer, and his men. While listening to sounds of the ambush,
Childers and his Marines captured the Vietnamese officer and his radioman. In order to save
Hodges and his platoon, Childers held a pistol to the radioman's head and tried to force Colonel
Cao to withdraw his troops from the ambush in exchange for the officer and radioman's freedom.
When the officer initially refused to comply, Childers executed Colonel Cao's subordinate.
After the Vietnamese officer changed his mind and called off his troops, Childers released him.
During the testimony of Colonel Cao that Childers had illegally threatened him with death in
order to save his Marines, the foreign officer admits that he would likely have done what
Childers had. This appears to be a potential turning point in the trial and, ultimately,
Colonel Childers is found not guilty of the charges of Conduct unbecoming an officer and a
gentleman and murder, but guilty of the minor charge of breach of the peace.
Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Greenwood, |
Guy Pearce, Blair Underwood
Director: William Friedkin
Producers: Scott Rudin & Richard D. Zanuck
Year Released - March 2000
Length - 128 minutes
Music Composer: Mark Isham
Movie Distributed by Paramount Pictures
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