In the summer of 2004, Sergeant J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) of Bravo Company are at the volatile center of the war, part of a small counterforce specifically trained to handle the homemade bombs, or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), that account for more than half of American hostile deaths and have killed thousands of Iraqis. The job, a high-pressure, high-stakes assignment, which soldiers volunteer for, requires a calm intelligence that leaves no room for mistakes, as they learn when they lose their team leader on a routine mission.
When Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) cheerfully takes over the team, Sanborn and Eldridge are shocked by what seems like his reckless disregard for military protocol and basic safety measures. And yet, in the fog of war, appearances are never reliable for long. Is James really a swaggering cowboy who lives for peak experiences and the moments when the margin of error is zero or is he a consummate professional who has honed his esoteric craft to high-wire precision? As the fiery chaos of Baghdad threatens to engulf them, the men struggle to understand and contain their mercurial new leader long enough for them to make it home. They have only 38 days left in their tour, but with each new mission comes another deadly encounter, and as James blurs the line between bravery and bravado, it seems only a matter of time before disaster strikes.