The film is a dramatization of the notorious 1925 court-martial of U.S. Army General William "Billy" Mitchell (Cooper), for publicly complaining about the High Command's dismissal and neglect of the aerial fighting forces following two disasters.
This film features examples of:
- Armchair Military: Mitchell's complaint stems from the High Command's dismissal and neglect of the aerial fighting forces.
- Bittersweet Ending: The court finds Mitchell guilty, but he has presented his case to the public, which is considered a win since he wanted to raise awareness about the state of the Air Service.
- Colonel Badass: Even when demoted from brigadier general to colonel, Mitchell shows that he is brave and fearless when confronting and expressing his disagreement to his superiors.
- Court-martialed: Mitchell is court-martialled for for his public complaints about the High Command.
- A Father to His Men: It's clear that Mitchell's criticisms come from caring deeply about his men, such as his friend Zachary Lansdowne, who was killed in one of the two disasters that he witnessed.
- Foregone Conclusion: Given that it's based on a true story, at the time of the film's release most people probably knew already that Mitchell will not win the case.
- Never My Fault: Basically the military's approach to Mitchell's criticisms, as the fact that they are accurate is constantly shot down.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Mitchell, who is concerned about the neglect of the aerial fighting forces. His superiors, not so much.