The film is a dramatization of the notorious court-martial of General William "Billy" Mitchell for publically 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.