A veteran of China's Civil War rails against modern bureaucracy in hopes of finally receiving recognition for his bravery and to honor the memory of his fallen comrades in director Feng Xiaogang's big-budget war drama. The year was 1948, and the fighting between the Nationalist KMT and the Communist PLA is raging.
In a small, northeast China town, Captain Gu Zidi (Zhang Hanyu) leads the Ninth Company in a fierce skirmish against the a rapidly weakening KMT unit. His blood boiling over the death of a political officer in battle, Captain Gu vengefully kills a KMT soldier despite the fact that the leader and his unit have just surrendered.
Imprisoned for a few short days as a sort-of token gesture, Captain Gu makes the acquaintance of imprisoned political officer Wang Juncun (Yuan Wenkang, who has just been accused of cowardice and will likely receive the death penalty.
Later, when Captain Gu is ordered to take the Ninth out on a dangerous mission, he requests that Wang join the brigade in battle.
Unfortunately for the majority of the squad, the KMT forces are much more substantial this time around, and though a few men claim to have heard the signal for retreat, Captain Gu commands them to stand their ground: In the aftermath of the slaughter, Captain Gu is the last man standing.
Still, the valiant soldier stages a remarkable recovery, and goes on to save the life of North Korean Er Dou (Deng Chao) during a battle against the Americans and South Koreans. A few years later, Captain Gu enlists the aid of Er Dou and Wang's widow in regaining his honor, and ensuring that his fellow soldiers didn't die in vain.