The mysterious death of an army officer comes under investigation by Major Kendall Laird (John Lithgow) as the young soldier’s parents (Morgan Freeman and CCH Pounder) seek an Honorable burial place, out of respect for their son. The parents are assisted by their neighbor Mrs. McAlister (Frances Sternhagen), in their patriotic and racially divided community.
It is 1972. The fallen body of Lt. Dwyte Johnson is brought back to be buried in Rockville, Georgia. However, there is one problem. Lt. Johnson is black and his family wants to bury him in a cemetery where only white people are buried. It is near the place where Dwyte played as a boy and he loved the area. But the father (Morgan Freeman) and mother (CCH Pounder) are told the body is not welcome there. Following the funeral at the church and trip to the cemetery, his body is carried back to the church to lie in state while the controversy is worked out.
John Lithgow gives a stirring performance as Major Kendall Laird, the man who accompanied Johnson’s body home and who is given the assignment to find a solution. He admires what he has heard of Lt. Johnson, and he plunges ahead to see to it that Johnson is buried where his parents wish. Major Laird interviews the men who were with Johnson when he died, his men who have nominated him to receive a Silver Star. However, as the men all give the same account concerning Lt. Johnson’s death, they all sound rehearsed and as if they all decided on a standard answer should they be questioned. Major Laird senses something is wrong and now must separate the facts from fiction and determine if Lt. Johnson made a major mistake which led to his death, or if indeed he was a hero.
I found this film to be moving, well written and it unflinchingly addresses the issue of racial prejudice. It is an outstanding picture and we highly recommend it for ages twelve plus, due to the mature themes and some language, and we proudly award it our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal and five Doves, our highest rating.