April 6th 1917. As a regiment assembles to wage war deep in enemy territory, two soldiers are assigned to race against time and deliver a message, that will stop 1,600 men, from walking straight into a deadly trap.
April 1917, the Western Front. Two British soldiers are sent to deliver an urgent message to an isolated regiment. If the message is not received in time the regiment will walk into a trap and be massacred. To get to the regiment they will need to cross through enemy territory. Time is of the essence and the journey will be fraught with danger.
April 6, 1917. On a battlefield in Northern France, Lance Corporal Tom Blake with the British Army is asked to choose one of his battalion colleagues to join him on an assignment, he choosing his best friend, Lance Corporal Will Schofield. It isn't until Blake chooses Schofield that they learn of the dangerous nature of the mission: to hand deliver a message to Colonel MacKenzie leading another nearby battalion, they having to cross no man's land to what they have been told are now the abandoned German trenches to get to MacKenzie just past the nearby town of Écoust. The message, which must reach its destination by dawn tomorrow, is for MacKenzie to abort his troop's attack then on the supposedly retreating Germans who are in reality lying in wait, the Germans having planned this deception for months. The lives of MacKenzie and his 1,600 men are at risk if the message does not make it through in time, one of those men being Blake's brother, Lt. Joseph Blake. Blake and Schofield's stories as it pertains to them as soldiers in the bigger picture of the war, as soldiers trying to stay alive, as friends, and as human beings who have their own motivations are told for as long as they are able to survive on this mission.
It's been already three devastating years into the costly World War I, and the Imperial German Army seems to have retreated from their position in the battle-scarred Western Front--an elaborate scheme designed to lure the Allies into a deadly trap. On April 6, 1917--with the lives of 1,600 fellow soldiers hanging by a thread--the best friends and British Army Lance Corporals, Tom Blake and Will Schofield, undertake a peril-laden mission to hand-deliver an urgent, life-saving message to Colonel MacKenzie's Second Battalion of the Devonshire line infantry regiment. With this in mind, amid the horrors of an uncannily silent no man's land, the young brothers-in-arms must traverse nine long miles of hostile enemy terrain in the French countryside, to reach the 2nd Devons in time and call off the imminent attack. Now, two ordinary troopers walk into certain death. What makes a true hero?
- During the First World War in April 1917, the German army has pulled back from a sector of the Western Front in the north of France. General Erinmore briefs two young British soldiers, Lance Corporals Tom Blake and Will Schofield. Aerial reconnaissance has spotted that the Germans are not in retreat but have made a tactical withdrawal to their new Hindenburg Line, where they are waiting to overwhelm the British with artillery. With field telephone lines cut, Blake and Schofield are ordered to hand-deliver a message to the Second Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, calling off their planned attack, which might cost the lives of 1,600 men including Blake's brother Lieutenant Joseph Blake.
Schofield and Blake cross no man's land and reach the abandoned German trenches. These turn out to contain tripwires, which a rat triggers. The ensuing explosion almost kills Schofield, but Blake digs him out. They arrive at an abandoned farmhouse, where they witness a dogfight between three aircraft. The German plane is shot down and plunges into the farm in flames. Schofield and Blake attempt to save the burned pilot. Schofield proposes to mercy kill him, but Blake has Schofield fetch water for the pilot. The pilot stabs Blake and is shot dead by Schofield, who comforts Blake as he dies, promising to complete the mission.
Schofield is picked up by a passing British unit. A destroyed bridge near the bombed-out village of Écoust-Saint-Mein prevents lorries from crossing, so Schofield crosses alone on the remnants of the bridge. This draws an attack by a German sniper across the river. Schofield tracks down and kills the sniper, only to be knocked out by a ricocheting bullet.
Schofield regains consciousness at night. Fired upon by a German soldier, Schofield stumbles into the hiding place of a French woman with an infant. She treats his wounds and he gives her his canned food and his canteen filled with milk from the farm. Continuing, Schofield is twice discovered by German soldiers, drawing attacks. He strangles one German and pushes past another who is too inebriated to stop him. Other soldiers give chase amid flares lighting up the night sky but he escapes the gunfire by jumping into a river.
Schofield reaches the 2nd Devons just before the British attack begins. Failing to stop the start of the attack, he sprints across the battlefield after realising that the trenches are too full of soldiers for him to make it to the commander in time. As the British infantry begin their charge, they, along with Schofield, are bombarded by German artillery. Schofield forces his way into meeting Colonel Mackenzie, and the attack is called off.
Schofield then locates Joseph - who was among the first attacking wave but is unhurt - and delivers the news of Blake's death. Joseph is upset but thanks Schofield for his efforts. Schofield asks to write to Blake's mother to tell her about Blake's heroics, to which Joseph agrees.
Schofield walks away and sits under a nearby tree. The film ends with Schofield looking at several photos with his two young daughters and his wife, with a message written on it.