This compelling courtroom drama features Basehart as an army major on trial for collaborating with the enemy while he was held captive in Korea. The former prisoner of war readily admits his guilt in such acts as broadcasting anti-American sentiments for his captors. Widmark, the Army colonel investigating the case, is suspicious as to why Basehart--an essentially good man--would break so readily. The truth is slowly revealed, then finally brought into the open by Torn, a young lieutenant who tells the court of Basehart's real motivation. In order to save the lives of 16 fellow POWs following the execution of an informer, Basehart had been forced to cooperate with the North Koreans a secret the man has carried for the entire trial. This raises a moral issue that has no easy answer: is Basehart a traitor despite his good intentions? Such themes run through the film. Morality comes in varied shades of gray in the damning process, with answers coming in a process which is agonizing for both accused and the accuser. This journey into the conflict between humanism and duty is performed and directed with intensity. Basehart and Widmark are superb in their characterizations, two men in a face-off of disturbing ideas. Directed by actor Malden, the film is a tightly structured piece that forces its audience to think about the difficult issues it raises. Malden makes excellent use of his cast, wringing out emotion without bathos and adding flashbacks to Korea at crucial moments. Denker adapted the script from a play he cowrote with Ralph Berkey, constructing the story like a series of Chinese boxes, revealing information slowly until the emotional climax. TIME LIMIT is not an easy film to take, but it certainly is important in the issues it raises and the sensitive manner with which they are handled.
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