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After the plane of Lt. Corby, Sgt. Mac MacClellan and soldiers Fletcher and young Sidney crashes in a forest behind enemy lines, Corby immediately forms a plan to follow the nearby river to the front line by building a raft and traveling by night. With no better suggestions, the scared soldiers begin the dangerous journey, their anxieties racing through their minds as they walk: Corby bears the weight of responsibility for the group, Mac blames Corby for placing them in danger, Fletcher worries about the risk and Sidney is overcome with desperation and fear. They finally reach the river, where Corby casually teases the men as they build a raft. Scouting across the river, Mac discovers an airstrip next to a command post that is manned by high-level enemy personnel, including a general. When a plane flies overhead, the group, afraid they may have been spotted, abandon the raft and take cover in the forest. They soon come across two soldiers in a hut, and in need of the food and guns inside, they attack. Sidney watches in horror as Mac brutally murders the soldiers. When another soldier enters, Corby is forced to shoot him, and they flee again in fear that someone has heard the gunshot. Outside, Corby decides to return to the raft, even though they risk being caught in a trap, and as they set out for the river again, Mac needles Sidney for his cowardice. Along the river, they spy a woman washing, and hide in the bushes. She spots them, however, and they are forced to take her prisoner, and tie to her to a nearby tree. Corby strokes her hair, but after Mac urges him to act "civilized," he tries unsuccessfully to communicate with her. Leaving Sidney to guard her, the other men continue on to see if the raft is still there. During the hours that they are gone, Sidney grows more and more unbalanced, first trying to entertain the beautiful young woman with the story of Shakespeare's The Tempest , then embracing her desperately. Meanwhile, the others find the raft untouched, and Mac, watching the enemy general through field glasses, dreams of killing him. Corby deflects Mac's attempts to discuss the general by sending him back to Sidney, who is at this point feeding the girl water out of his hand. When she laps at his palm, Sidney falls on her and frees her hands. She runs away and, afraid she will reveal their location, Sidney shoots her, then collapses. By the time Mac arrives, Sidney is crazed, muttering that Prospero the Magician has killed the girl before racing off into the river. Corby and Fletcher join Mac and mournfully assume that Sidney has drowned. That night, Corby once again refuses to endanger the group by attacking the general, but Mac convinces him that he must be allowed to perform one act of great courage before he dies. Corby finally agrees, and they return to the river, where the men attempt to say goodbye without sentiment. Mac takes off on the raft in order to act as a decoy for the soldiers guarding the general, while Corby and Fletcher hide by the general's airplane, waiting for Mac's signal. Inside the post, the general is musing with his captain over the evil spirits in the forest, his complicity in sacrificing lives, and whether or not their own lives are in danger. As Mac floats down the river to his almost-certain death, he thinks that although no one will mourn him, he is eager to come to glory. When he reaches the post, he shoots to draw the guards's attention, and as they gather to attack him, Corby and Fletcher rush to the post and fire into the windows. The wounded general crawls to the door and surrenders, but Corby kills him, only then recognizing the general's face as his own. Corby and Fletcher race to the plane and take off, while a wounded Mac floats down the river. In the mist, he bumps into Sidney, now completely insane, and the two drift on together. Hours later, Corby and Fletcher have reached the American lines and wait by the river for the raft. There, they discuss how much they have changed in the forest, wondering if they are still lost. When the raft finally floats into view, bearing Mac's dead body and a raving Sidney, Fletcher replies that he is not built for war, and Corby states that no one ever can be.