This alternate history related article is a stub. You can help by expanding it.''The Watchers is a 2001 American war movie directed by Jerry Patterson and based on a book of the same name by Rodney Curry and screenplay by Aaron Goldberg. The film was set during 1953's Battle of Birmingham in the English Adventure and starred Barry Obama, Tom Brady, Jim Ames, Ryan Zegler, John Leguizamo, Nathan Fillion, Donovan McNabb and Richard Gere. While the novel was intended as a parable about race (as Obama is the first-ever black commander of an Army Ranger platoon) and featured relatively little violence until its end, Patterson rewrote much of the script to make it a story about a company internally divided by race relations uniting under the pressures of war.
The film was universally acclaimed and was a box office success, but despite being nominated for twelve Academy Awards and being the presumptive favorite for most of its nominations, The Watchers only won the Academy Awards for Set Design, Cinematography and Sound Mixing, despite dominating the other awards ceremonies on the Hollywood awards circuit.
The film has a cold open with an explosion in the middle of a field as an American unit assaults the English town of Worcester during the beginning of Operation Thunderclap in 1953. During the twenty-two minute opening sequence, we are introduced to the main characters in the 3rd Army Ranger Battalion. Staff Sergeant Samuel "the Goods" Goodwin (Obama) assumes command in the thick of the fighting after Lieutenant Marsden (Samuel K. Terry) is killed by a sniper. Along with Corporal Manning (Fillion), Pfc. Shanks (McNabb), Pfc. Holmes (Greg Jones) and Pfc. O'Brien (Ted Kelly), Goodwin manages to take out the sniper, who is hidden in a factory and taking out several American soldiers. While Holmes and O'Brien are killed in the heavy fighting as they try to rendezvous with the other forces, Shanks manages to fend off six EWA commandos pinning them down in the ruins of a pub.
For their bravery during the capture of Worcester, Goodwin, Manning and Shanks are all commended publicly and given Medals of Courage. Goodwin is then brought into the field quarters of Colonel Roger Delahunt (Gere), who announces that due to his bravery in the field, Goodwin will assume command of Marsden's platoon and is being promoted to Lieutenant, making him the first-ever black commander of an integrated Army Ranger outfit. To commemorate this historic event, Delahunt provides Goodwin with two letters - one handwritten from the head of the Army Rangers, the other a brief, typed acknowledgement from the Defense Department.
Delahunt assigns Goodwin several new soldiers whose own platoons were gouged during the fighting and tells him that he will be in charge of the advanced scouting ahead into Birmingham. Between Worcester and the larger city, and inside Birmingham itself, is one of the largest hosts of the EWA in England.
Goodwin, while close with both Manning and Shanks, struggles to win over his newest charges, in particular Corporal James (Zegler), who is from Tennessee and butts heads with both Goodwin and Shanks due to their race. Pfc. Nolan (Brady) is an elite sniper who, while not quite as antagonistc towards Shanks or, to a lesser extent, Goodwin as James, is still clearly uncomfortable with being given orders by a black officer. Pfc. Hernandez (Leguizamo), a Puerto Rican, is the friendliest out of the four new soldiers attached to the unit and is the delegated peacemaker. Corporal Passer (Frank Tobin) is the assigned medic and map-reader.
Goodwin expresses doubts to Shanks about both the trustworthiness of James and Nolan and about the legitimacy of their mission, feeling that it is bizarre that they are being sent into such hostile territory without the Army planning on moving against the EWA sooner. As they patrol the outskirts of Bromsgrove by nightfall, they are caught under fire by enemy soldiers, and are suddenly in the crossfire as the American artillery starts shelling blindly. The platoon manages to escape injury and spend the night in the basement of a house, where an artillery shell causes a cave-in.
As they work the next day to dig themselves out, the men start to debate race relations in America, which nearly turns violent between Shanks and James. Goodwin and Hernandez break up the argument before it becomes an actual fight and they claw their way back out into the middle of another battle, as the Americans have launched an all-out attack. To their surprise, the US Army is forced to withdraw after sustaining heavy casualties from the well-fortified EWA commandos using anti-tank rifles and other guerrilla tactics to keep the American forces at bay.
Goodwin decides, despite being caught behind enemy lines during an assault, to attempt to take out one of the EWA strongholds in a five-story building that has not yet been taken out by tank fire. In a violent fight, the US Army Rangers manage to take out the EWA stronghold, although Manning is killed in the firefight.
The Rangers discover several prisoners being kept in the basement of the makeshift fortress and have taken a prisoner of their own (Ben Waddsley), whom after interrogating, Passer executes, earning him the rebuke of his fellows. Goodwin, however, agrees to move the body of the executed guerrilla upstairs to make it look like he was killed in the firefight and everyone in the company agrees not to tell. Wracked by guilt, Goodwin weeps and vomits profusely out of sight from his unit.
They free the prisoners being kept by the EWA, which are constituted of the now-defunct Worcester Regulars, a guerrilla militia nominally led by Oliver Coles (Ames), a tough, roguish fighter who evaded capture for nearly a year and a half along with his men. Coles, who was soon to be executed before the Americans distracted his captors and had been tortured for days, agrees to lead the Rangers safely through Bromsgrove all the way to Birmingham. Goodwin agrees to help Coles sabotage an EWA weapons and food dump and to assist him in freeing his captured compatriots. As they journey north, the American soldiers begin to let up on their mistrust of each other and begin to mistrust Coles and his four companions.
On the outskirts of Birmingham, Passer is killed by a sniper along with two of Coles' comrades. Eventually, the soldiers manage to disperse of the snipers scattered throughout the street and take cover in an abandoned shop, surviving an all-out siege by EWA commandos, even after they run out of bullets. James escapes during the fighting when he is separated from the unit and the EWA converges on the shop. However, Coles double-crosses Goodwin and his men when the EWA overrun the shop in return for his own life and then give the captors valuable information on the Americans that he gleaned from Goodwin.
Hernandez is executed to be made an example of and Goodwin is tortured for more information in a church. His captors are killed by James, who frees his three comrades and they escape out into Birmingham, hoping to rendezvous with the Americans nearby.
Coles and the lead EWA commander (Greg Gaerity) intercept the four Army Rangers at an open intersection and a firefight ensues in the wartorn rubble. Goodwin manages to kill the EWA commander but is wounded by Coles and barely manages to drag himself to safety. Nolan takes out Coles with his sniper rifle, but in return exposes his position and is shot by the EWA snipers and killed. Shanks, trying to reach Goodwin, is shot but dragged to safety by James, who sustains multiple gunshot wounds and dies after getting Shanks to cover. Before the enemy soldiers can reach Goodwin or Shanks, however, American soldiers storm the plaza and both Shanks and Goodwin are taken to safety.
Goodwin recommends both James and Nolan for the Medal of Honor due to their valor in combat as he recovers from his wounds, and mentions to Delahunt that he hopes his recommendation is taken seriously, even though he is black. Delahunt says that he will fight tooth and nail for the recommendation to go through.
Many years later, an elderly Goodwin (Dean Williams), along with his wife, children and grandchildren, visit a war memorial service being held at a military graveyard in England. Goodwin spots an elderly Shanks (Howard Hopewell), who is with his extended family as well, and they salute one another before embracing. The final shot of the film is of the American flag and English flag waving side by side at a military graveyard as the camera zooms out, revealing the hundreds of white gravestones in the cemetery.