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G.I. Jane (1997) - Plot Summary Poster

(1997)

Plot

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Summaries

  • When a crusading chairperson of the military budget committee pressures the would be Navy secretary to begin full gender integration of the service, he offers the chance for a test case for a female trainee in the US Navy's elite SEAL/C.R.T. selection program. LT. Jordan O'Neill is given the assignment, but no one expects her to succeed in an inhumanly punishing regime that has a standard 60% dropout rate for men. However, O'Neill is determined to prove everyone wrong.

  • A female Senator succeeds in enrolling a woman into Combined Reconnaissance Team training where everyone expects her to fail.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • In Washington DC a Senate hearing is being held. The hearing is chaired by a powerful Senator, Lillian DeHaven, who questions the US military's policies of women being allowed to serve in combat situations. DeHaven plans to have a female naval officer enroll in SEAL training, one of the toughest training programs the US Military has to offer, with a 60% failure rate amongst its candidates. She receives much resistance from the Naval representatives at the hearing, however she uses her influence to put her plan into action.

    The candidate DeHaven handpicks is Lieutenant Jordan O'Neill, who works in Naval communications as a satellite communications specialist. O'Neill has been passed over for promotion within her division with many male coworkers having less experience than she does. O'Neill is also romantically involved with one of her superior officers, Royce. Tension arises between herself and Royce when she chooses to participate in the training course.

    O'Neill reports to the SEAL training facility and is immediately subject to ridicule and discrimination from her fellow candidates and the base's commanding colonel, who makes attempts to treat her delicately because she's a woman. The facility's command master chief (CMC), John Urgayle, addresses his candidates for the 1st time by reciting a poem, "Self Pity", by DH Lawrence. The trainees are then begin their "hell week" where they are subjected to extremely rigorous mental and physical conditions: they are forced to push heavy ship fenders up sand dunes, exercise in cold water, hold heavy rafts over their heads for prolonged periods of time and are constantly ridiculed by Urgayle's staff. When the training regimen becomes too much for a candidate they have the option of leaving the program voluntarily by ringing a ceremonial bell three times.

    Hell week ends for the candidates when they are required to run a difficult obstacle course under live fire. O'Neill is told that there will be a small set of wooden steps at a wall marking the end of the course, to make it easier for her to scale the wall -- she protests and is told to be quiet. The trainees, including O'Neill, make it to the wall; O'Neill pushes the step unit aside and volunteers her own body to allow her fellow trainees to get over the wall. The last trainee, Cortez, reaches his hand down to help O'Neill but keeps his grip just out of reach and then suggests she quit. (He is later punished for his actions.) O'Neill uses the stair unit to scale the wall and runs to join her comrades but misses a tripwire, signifying she may have killed some or all of the company. Later, when Urgayle's staff reads of the candidates' times, O'Neill finds to her surprise she passed the course, even though she came in dead last, behind other candidates who didn't finish in the required 12 minute limit. She's told that she was given a 30 second buffer, a concept they refer to as "gender norming". O'Neill meets directly with the base's colonel, who, never happy about the idea of a woman being allowed into SEAL training, tells her that he'd altered the program because she's a woman. O'Neill requests that she be treated the same as the male candidates, including being allowed to take up residence in their barracks. Her request is granted and she reports to the base's barber shop. The barber isn't there and she shaves off her long hair herself and joins the men in their barracks. After a brief argument with one of the other candidates, Urgayle orders the ranking officer, Wickwire, to make up a schedule to allow O'Neill privacy in the head and shower.

    Back in Washington, O'Neill's success in hell week is reported to DeHaven. It is revealed that DeHaven has also been generating publicity about O'Neill's candidacy but she has an ulterior motive: she is using the incident as leverage to prevent the closing of military bases in her native Texas, but voting for base closings in other states.

    O'Neill continues through the rest of the program, learning how to use weapons, field strip and reassemble them and learns the effects of forced drowning from interrogation. She manages to score higher than most of her male counterparts and slowly begins earning the respect of more of her comrades. During an exercise where they are extracted from the water by high-speed boats, O'Neill fails to pull herself from the water (though she receives little help unlike her male teammates). Urgayle lectures her later about her failure in the test and tells her he earned the Navy Cross for pulling a man much larger than himself from a burning tank. He worries that O'Neill may not be able to perform a similar task under combat conditions. He also tells her that she'll be taking over a squad when one of the other trainees must leave due to an injury.

    The trainees then enter a very crucial stage of the program called SERE. They will be placed into a simulated combat mission where they are very likely be captured and subjected to harsh interrogation and physical abuse. The teams are dropped off at the coast of Captiva Island and, under O'Neill's direction, make their way inland until they find what appears to be a deserted compound. While they perform their reconnaissance procedures, part of O'Neill's team, Cortez and Slovnick, break off and try to retrieve a helmet for a souvenir, contravening her direct orders. The helmet is shot off its perch by a sniper and a net traps them both. O'Neill and the rest of her team try to retreat into the forest and are quickly captured.

    Their captors turn out to be Urgayle, his assistant Pyro and the rest of their training instructors. The ranking officers, including O'Neill, are thrown into confined wooden boxes and taken one at a time into the main shack to be interrogated. When O'Neill is taken in, Urgayle preys upon his perceived notion of O'Neill's weakness & her ability to carry out one of her team who was injured in their attempted escape. Urgayle then begins to beat O'Neill viciously, under the pretense of the treatment she'd receive if she were really captured by an actual hostile. Urgayle drags O'Neill outside and shoves her head in a trough of muddy water, demanding that the other prisoners reveal intelligence about the rest of the SEAL team in the forest. Urgayle then threatens to rape O'Neill in front of the company. O'Neill, her hands bound behind her, kicks Urgayle in the crotch and slams her skull into his face, breaking his nose. She then kicks him further. Urgayle gets to his feet and beats O'Neill down. He staggers to the prisoner corral and tries to convince the male members of the team, who have all turned their backs on him, that O'Neill is a weak link that could get them all killed. O'Neill, having regained her feet, suddenly shouts "SUCK MY DICK!!" to Urgayle. The rest of the team rallies behind her and Urgayle gives up, defeated.

    After returning from SERE training, the team, with new found respect and admiration for O'Neill's tough nature and courage, treat her to a drink. Shortly after, O'Neill is called into the colonel's office and presented with pictures of her hanging out with female officers suspected of being lesbians. O'Neill is told she'll be sent back to Washington and will take up a desk job until the matter is investigated. If O'Neill wishes to complete the SEAL program, she'll have to start over again. Furious at the false charges, O'Neill rings out of the SEAL program and drives back to Washington. She goes to the home she'd been sharing with Royce. Royce shows her evidence from DeHaven's office showing that the Senator had sent a memo to the Navy about the dangers of letting a woman complete SEAL training and that US citizens aren't ready for women to enter combat. O'Neill goes to a Senate committee hearing concerning the closing of military bases and confronts DeHaven openly. Accusing DeHaven of deliberately sinking her career for her own gain, DeHaven says she's actually amazed that O'Neill had gotten as far as she did in the training program and that her approval of O'Neill's enlistment was a publicity stunt. O'Neill threatens to take DeHaven's actions regarding military base closings to the news units just outside the hearing room and DeHaven promises to get O'Neill back into the SEAL program and does. O'Neill returns to her unit.

    The last phase of training is to be conducted somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea. While awaiting orders aboard a submarine, an emergency mission comes up and Urgayle's team is ordered to participate. A US satellite had come down in Libya and the US Army Ranger team sent in to retrieve it needs assistance in reaching their pickup point. The plutonium in the satellite is weapons grade according to O'Neill and could easily fall into enemy possession. After landing on the beach, O'Neill & Urgayle split from the rest of the team and reconnoiter a nearby Libyan camp. When a Libyan border patrol party shows up unexpectedly, O'Neill hides while being covered by Urgayle. They quickly determine that the Ranger team could be discovered. When one of the party gets too close to O'Neill's hiding spot, Urgayle shoots him, drawing the attention of the man's comrades. O'Neill and Urgayle retreat, O'Neill making it safely back to the beach. Surmising that the Chief wouldn't draw the Libyans back to the rallying point for both the satellite recovery unit and the SEAL team, she identifies another location that the Chief would more likely retreat to. The team sets up an ambush there with a minefield, and the Chief shows up. During a furious firefight, Urgayle is hit in the leg and O'Neill rushes into the minefield and drags the Chief out. The mines are detonated and the team escapes. On the beach, they receive assistance from a helicopter unit & are all loaded onto one of the choppers and lifted out.

    Back at the SEAL training facility, the successful graduates receive their pins for completing the training from Urgayle. O'Neill goes to empty her locker and finds a copy of DH Lawrence's poetry with a Navy Cross marking the page with the poem "Self Pity". She sees Urgayle, who gives her a glance, and then walks out of the locker room. The closing credits are preceded by Urgayle's speech to the candidates before they begin hell week.

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