During World War II. Lt. Col. John Lawrence is a prisoner is a Japanese POW camp commanded by Captain Yonoi and Sgt. Hara. Lawrence speaks Japanese fluently and understands the way they think. The Japanese see the British as dishonorable and weak for having surrendered. The POW commander will have nothing of it however and sometimes treats Lawrence as a collaborator and refuses to follow his advice. For him, the Japanese are cruel and bloodthirsty and not the loyal and brave soldiers that they believe they are. The arrival of a new prisoner, Maj. Jack Celliers, has an effect on all of them.