Harry 'Breaker' Morant (Edward Woodward) is a lieutenant in the Bushveldt Carbineers serving in the Boer War with his colleagues Peter Handcock and George Witton. They stand accused of killing seven Boer prisoners and a German missionary who was witness to the Boer killings.
As the trial continues it is increasingly evident that the lieutenants were simply following orders from their superior officer, Captain Hunt. Unfortunately, Hunt was killed in action and the lieutenants were primarily accused of avenging his death.
Further background reading on the true story events can be found on Wikipedia's extensive page.
As the film progresses though, it is increasingly evident that the sharp cutting between each of the character's faces tells more of a story than an awkward silence. The alternating cuts between the current trial and the previous crimes is far more explanatory than having the audience struggling to remember had they been shown one-after-the-other.
As an actor, Edward Woodward had already made his name in the 1973 film Wicker Man, but really stamped his worth down in Breaker Morant as his character moved from anger, to sympathy and finally into honourable sorrow. Arguably, he isn't the most important character in the film - as both the defending and prosecuting attorney had far more lines - but he was able to characterise the film for being one of his finest performances.
As previously stated, Breaker Morant improves continuously - and it saves the best until last. In the final scene, as the emotions run higher, director Bruce Beresford finally uses the African savannah and sunset to it's full cinematic potential to create one of the finest landscapes that I have ever seen in film.
Great performances in this moving film.