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It's 1971. Young British Army soldiers Gary (Jack O'Connell) and Thommo (Jack Lowden) are still in training, learning military discipline as their unit prepares for duty in Germany. When plans change, the two, along with their unit of mostly untested men barely out of school, are dropped into the violence taking place in Northern Ireland.
Belfast, divided by religion and politics, is experiencing unpredictable violence between the Protestant Loyalist areas and the mostly Catholic Nationalist districts whose inhabitants oppose British rule. Gary and Thommo's squad is immediately ordered to patrol a Catholic area, but when Gary is separated from his unit, he finds himself in a life-threatening position.