The time is 1971. A nation stands divided over the escalating war in Vietnam. Thousands of young Americans lie dead on foreign soil. And at Fort Polk, Louisiana, thousands more prepare to join them.
The spectre of combat hangs over the men of A-Company, Second Platoon, as they enter the final stage of infantry training. They will be sent to the war. But each man deals with this prospect in his own way. Private Jim Paxton (Matthew Davis), notebook in hand, expects the war to inform his writing - a romantic notion drawn from Hemingway and James Jones. Miter (Clifton Collins, Jr.) hopes to prove himself as a man. Cantwell (Thomas Guiry) simply resigns himself to the inevitable. And Wilson (Shea Whigham), with disturbing zeal, lusts for battle.
One man's defiance, however, galvanizes every member of the platoon. Soon after Roland Bozz (Colin Farrell) joins A-Company, the lines of opinion that divide the conscience of the nation begin to penetrate the ranks of the soldiers. Just released from the base stockade, Bozz wants out of the army, and he stages small acts of protest.
Bozz' disobedience triggers unexpected and far-reaching consequences. We begin to see that Bozz, Paxton, Miter, Cantwell, Wilson, Johnson (Russell Richardson) and the others are children, handed rifles and forced into adult uniforms. But nothing Bozz does can save himself or the boys in Second Platoon from Tigerland, a wilderness designated by the army for jungle combat simulation. Their last stop before the war.
Deep in the backwoods of Louisiana, with little hope of escaping Vietnam, Bozz rushes towards an action that no one - not even he - could have anticipated.