When they joined the Navy during World War II, African-American enlistees hoped for fair treatment in addition to the opportunity to defend their country. Denied access to officers' candidate school,black sailors like Ben Cooper (Michael Jai White), Vernon Nettles (David Ramsey) and BJ Teach (Duane Martin) find themselves segregated from their white counterparts and relegated to the most dangerous of menial tasks: loading live munitions. Inadequately trained, these swabbies learn that white officers are betting on their output, even as the higher command sets unrealistic productivity goals. Then, in 1944, disaster strikes when a victory ship explodes and blows 320 men including poor BJ to smithereens. When no change in policy follows in the wake of this tragedy, the surviving Black seamen risk court-martial by digging in their heels and refusing to cooperate. Can second class citizens receive a first class defense against the Naval Administration? Historically, the answer was no. An antidote to the unabashed jingoism of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and its ilk, this fact-based movie examines the heroism of men denied the right to defend their country or themselves. Powered by anger at social injustice, it's one of those well-intentioned, position-paper dramas whose true-life story is more compelling and complex than the TV movie shorthand used to tell it. Setting the record straight in a literally black and white manner, the outraged filmmakers portray Nettles, Teach and Cooper as spokespersons for their beleaguered race rather than fully developed characters, which lessens the overall impact. As a wartime scrapbook and reminder of our ignoble tradition of hypocrisy, this is recommended viewing; as a courtroom drama, it doesn't hammer home its protagonists' despair.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: When they joined the Navy during World War II, African-American enlistees hoped for fair treatment in addition to the opportunity to defend their country. Denied access to officers' candidate school,black sailors like Ben Cooper (Michael Jai White), Vernon… (more)