Mark Walsh (Colin Farrell, in yet another powerful role) and his buddy David (Jamie Sives) are war photographers for a newspaper edited by Amy (Juliet Stevenson). Their current assignment is Kurdistan and the terrifying realities they not only experience but also commit to film are of such a horrid nature that they both are in shock: they not only witness killings and landmine explosion deaths, but they also watch one Dr. Talani (Branko Djuric) triage the wounded, deciding who can survive care and who is so near death that they are put aside to be later 'executed' by Dr. Talani in a compassionate gesture to end their futile suffering. The tension is so great that David decides to return home, leaving Mark to carry on the assignment. An explosion occurs and Mark is seriously injured but survives and after being tended by Dr. Talani he is encouraged to return home. There is no news as to where David is.
Mark returns home to his adoring Elena (Paz Vega), presents his photographs to Amy, and begins to heal: David's wife Diane (Kelly Reilly) is due to deliver their first child in two weeks and has had no word from David. We watch as Mark, eroded by his experiences in Kurdistan, retreat into a state of decline. Elena grows fearful as Mark, despite hospitalizations and medical care, continues to deteriorate and out of desperation she calls her grandfather Joaquin, a psychiatrist who treated the victims of the Spanish Civil War (Elena is still angry that her own grandfather treated the perpetrators of the destruction that war caused). Joaquin slowly brings Mark into the acceptance of how his mind has triaged the events in Kurdistan and leads Mark to discover the truths about incidents in what war for which he has blamed himself. We finally understand David's disappearance at the moment when his and Diane's child is born.
This is a tough story to watch: subtitles would help the audience understand the many dialects used in the film. But the message is clear and the acting is superb by every member of the cast, even very small but cogent cameos by Reece Ritchie as a boy in Beirut and Dada Ashi as a Ugandan woman - two of the early incidents Mark must remember and face in his work with Joaquin. The cinematography is dazzling, especially the use of flashbacks of a raging river so important in Mark's memory recall, and the constant focus on the blue and yellow tags that mark the triage decisions. This is another powerful anti-war film, this time as seen through the eyes of a non-combatant observer. It is important to see.