Carl Braschear (Cuba Gooding Jr.) grew up on a farm. His family wasn't rich and Carl always wanted to be there for his family. Carl was willing to quit school so he could help his father keep the farm going. His father wanted Carl to be something better than he was. He did let him work the farm though. One day Carl left to join the Navy. Going with him was a custom made radio.
Carl would land on the USS Hoist working in its kitchens somewhere in the South Pacific. One day after a long hot shift the kitchen crew went top side to get some air. The white crew was swimming and it was not the black crews day to swim but Carl was hot and wanted a swim. The white crew tried to swim him down but couldn't catch him. Carl would go to the brig but it was the Captain who when discussing the incident decided to have Carl transferred off his ship. Not because of Carl disobeying orders but because Carl could swim and he would better serve the Navy as a search and rescue swimmer.
Master Chief Leslie "Billy" Sunday (Robert DeNiro) has had a let's say colorful career in the Navy. He would be busted in rank. He would spend many a night in the brig for drunken disorderly. He knew his job and that's what counts. One day on the new ship a chopper goes down and the divers are sent to rescue the pilot. Sunday has already come back on deck and is not suppose to go back down unless he has been cleared through decompression. Something goes wrong and even after being told not to go back in he does. Unfortunately this gives an embolism in Sunday's lungs and cuts off his diving career. Carl Braschear is so impressed he wants to become a Navy Master Diver.
Carl gets in but is immediately harassed because of his race. Another recruit by the name of Snowhill (Michael Rapaport) tries to befriend Braschear but that night they are both beaten up. Carl goes up many who don't like the idea of a black diver. Captain Pappy (Hal Holbrook) tries to stop him because he has a 7th grade education. So Carl goes to the library and starts studying. This is where he will meet his wife Jo (Aunjanue Ellis). She will help tutor him and he will get his education. These two men Carl Braschear and Master Chief Sunday will eventually learn to depend on each other and will cross the race line.
Director George Tillman Jr. gives us a movie that crosses the race line and shows us how much better we for doing so. This is a true story and men like Carl Braschear endured much to get the respect they deserved. Master Chief Braschear will give the United States Navy many years of his life and we are so much better a Nation for it.