Home is a war away
At the beginning of the 2003 Iraq War, Pvt. Matt Ocre (Nicholas Hoult), a young civil affairs soldier with the Army Reserves slams his hand in the door of a Humvee in an attempt to get sent home. Narration reveals that he enlisted in July 2001, in order to get money for college. Some time later, he is seen with a cast on his arm, his attempt having been unsuccessful. His cast gets cut off just in time to be sent to Baghdad. During the battle, Ocre spots a sniper and Sergeant Dylan Chutsky (Glen Powell) calls in a helicopter strike that destroys the building the sniper is in.
The film then skips forward to some time after the battle, when Ocre’s squad is tasked with repairing a broken water system in the dangerous village of Baqubah. They arrive in the village and meet up with a Special Forces unit led by Cpt. Syverson (Henry Cavill). Syverson introduces them to their interpreter and explains that they are to travel to the pump station and fill a tanker with water to bring back to the village every day. At the station, the Army engineers working on the pump explain that it will take many weeks to finish repairs, but that the repairs would go much faster if Harper could recruit some of the villagers to help. Back at the village, they inform the locals that they will pay anyone who shows up to work the next morning. However, when the morning comes, there is no one there by the time they are ready to leave. With no labor forthcoming from the village, they are forced to help the engineers themselves. During one return trip, a vehicle is spotted coming up behind them at high speed. They stopped the vehicle and interrogated the driver, but learn he was taking his young daughter to another village for medicine. During another trip, they are attacked by several insurgents with small arms, who shoot holes in the tank. The next day, while passing out water, gunfire breaks out. They engage in a pitched firefight with several enemy shooting from the rooftops, during which Sergeant Chutsky is killed.
After finally getting help from Kadir, the administrator of the local school (played by Navid Negahban), who desperately needs water to keep the school open, they begin making better progress on the station. One morning, none of the Iraqis show up to work and the squad returns to the village, where they find the administrator’s body burned and tied to a stake in the schoolyard. The administrator’s brother Arif (Nabil Elouahabi) angrily tells Syverson where the insurgents have been meeting. A plan is quickly formed to attack them that night. The attacks succeeds, killing several enemy and capturing more, but Cpl. Enzo (Neil Brown Jr.) and Sgt. Burton (Beau Knapp) are both injured and need to be evacuated by helicopter. Work on the pump station finally resumes, with Arif bringing in a crew of local workers. However, soon after, the pump station is hit by an Improvised explosive device, destroying all of the work done by the group.
Ocre and Harper return to their base in Baghdad. Harper is given three weeks leave, and Ocre is told he is going home. Ocre protests, but is overruled. The next day, he is escorted to the airfield by Harper and Sgm. MacGregor (Tommy Flanagan). After asking MacGregor if it is a beautiful day for the infantry and receiving an enthusiastic affirmation, he boards the plane.