The USS Forrestal, an aircraft carrier on station in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, receives a mayday from a cargo ship. The ship reports that they have been attacked, are on fire and adrift. A deployed Navy SH-3 helicopter attempts to rescue the crew, but is downed by a gunboat and the aircrew is captured.
Meanwhile, a squad of United States Navy SEALs (Charlie Sheen, Michael Biehn, Dennis Haysbert, Rick Rossovich, Cyril O'Reilly, Bill Paxton, and Paul Sanchez) are recovering from a bachelor party. Graham (Haysbert) is to be married, but the wedding is canceled at the last minute when the whole Team is paged to return to base to rescue the captured aircrew.
In the Mediterranean, the leader of the terrorists that shot at the Navy helicopter, Ben Shaheed, (Nicholas Kadi), orders the execution of the hostages. One crewmember is executed on the spot and another is beaten up, but the SEAL team arrives just in time to prevent any further executions. Responding to a suspicious noise, Hawkins (Sheen) breaks silence when he encounters Shaheed in an adjoining room, inadvertently alerting the terrorists. Shaheed claims to be an Egyptian sailor also being held by the terrorists, and is left by the SEALs. As the SEALs evacuate the hostages from the area, Hawkins and Graham stumble across a warehouse containing Stinger missiles. Hawkins attempts to return to the warehouse to destroy the missiles, only to be ordered by Curran (Biehn) to proceed with extraction.
On board an aircraft carrier later that night, the individual Team members are debriefed by Naval Intelligence. Curran's decision to leave the Stinger missiles behind is questioned, but Curran retorts that his primary mission was to rescue the aircrew and that Naval Intelligence did not do their job properly. It is also obvious that Hawkins is highly agitated by the mission and has trouble dealing with the emotional upheaval the mission provided. Curran tries to calm him down but is rebuffed by Hawkins.
At the Pentagon, Shaheed is seen in a video interview. The Joint Chiefs of Staff identify Shaheed and his organization, the Al Shudadah. They also identify the interviewer as Claire Varrens (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer), a journalist and author who is half Lebanese. Her questioning of Shaheed yields an admission that he and his group participated in the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983. Shaheed admits the complicity freely, saying they only sought revenge for the bombing of their homes by Navy ships and warplanes. The Joint Chiefs are briefed on the recent mission and Curran requests permission to destroy the Stingers, but Navy Intelligence has learned they have already been relocated. The SEALs are ordered on R&R and enjoy a game of golf. Curran, brooding over the previous mission, reads a book authored by Varrens. During the golf outing, Graham convinces his fiancée (S. Epatha Merkerson) to try to finish the wedding again, regardless of the hazards of Graham's job.
The team receives their orders for the next mission. Naval Intelligence has heard that the Stinger missiles are on board a merchant ship, the Latanya, off the coast of Syria. The SEALs deploy from a submerged submarine, the USS Nyack, and successfully board the ship, neutralizing two disguised gunmen, only to find out from an EOD team that the missiles are not on board after all.
Frustrated by the recent unreliable intelligence, Curran solicits Varrens's cooperation. Curran takes Claire on a tour of Navy SEAL training and attempts to woo the journalist over an elegant dinner. Claire is initially wary but opens up to Curran after learning that a Stinger has been used to shoot down a peace delegation in Lebanon. Claire provides pictures of men she has encountered who may possibly provide information that may lead the SEALs to the location of the missiles. While trying to identify possible contacts, Claire tells Curran and Hawkins that one of her contacts is missing, most likely having been kidnapped by the Israelis. Inspired by this, and an outburst by Hawkins, Curran presents the idea of kidnapping a potential informant to his superiors who subsequently recommend the proposal at a National Security Council meeting. A CIA executive at the meeting identifies one of the targets as a known CIA informant who could be co-opted if taken into custody. On that basis, the SEALs are authorized to bring him in.
The SEALS infiltrate the area by performing a HALO jump and swimming to shore. Curran leads several of the team inside a house to secure the informant while Hawkins, Ramos, and Graham remain outside. When Ramos is pinned down by patrolling militia, Hawkins disobeys Curran's order to stay quiet and instigates a firefight. Although Hawkins finally succeeds in killing the militiamen, Graham is killed during the firefight.
Curran reluctantly informs Graham's fiancée of his death, and a funeral with full military honors is held. After the wake, the men drown their sorrows at a pizza place/bar. Hawkins gives a toast to Graham for being the best friend a guy could have. Curran scolds Hawkins for his carelessness that caused Graham's death. Later, Claire arrives at Curran's houseboat to find a still grieving Curran. They walk on the boardwalk and Curran tells the woman about the mission, which leads to a night of intimacy. Curran quietly leaves the next morning with Claire in bed.
The SEALs are deployed to Beirut, this time to meet a local resistance fighter who will guide them to the building containing the Stingers. Although Dane (Paxton) is killed while attempting to set up a sniping overwatch position, the SEALs do locate the Stingers in an old school building in a heavily-bombed area of the city. Curran leads Leary (Rossovich) and Rexer (O'Reilly) inside the building to destroy the missiles while Hawkins and Ramos maintain overwatch outside. Hawkins shoots a local gunman questioning him, alerting the terrorists. Leaving the building, Curran gets shot in the abdomen and thigh. Curran is pinned down near the building door and orders Hawkins to destroy the building regardless of Curran's being in the blast radius. Hawkins disobeys the order and rescues Curran while the other SEALs provide suppressing fire before the building is finally destroyed. The SEALs commandeer a car and attempt to exfiltrate from the city while evading pursuit by an enemy BTR-152 with a machine gun. The automobile is eventually hit by gunfire and Rexer killed by a stray bullet to the head. Leary, using a recovered Stinger missile launcher, manages to destroy the APC, and the four remaining SEALs escape to the beach.
Shaheed steals a boat from a pier-side fisherman and follows the SEALs across the water. He spots Curran's body floating in the sea. As he attempts to pull the body from the water he is attacked by the SEALs and, in an underwater fight, Hawkins kills Shaheed. The other SEALs take out the remaining topside terrorists and destroy the small boat. With the mission finally accomplished, the designated exfiltration submarine surfaces, recovering the SEALs.Charlie Sheen as Lieutenant Junior Grade Dale Hawkins, the second in command of the Navy SEAL team.
Michael Biehn as Lieutenant James Curran, the commander of the Navy SEAL team.
Joanne Whalley-Kilmer as Claire Varrens
Rick Rossovich as HM3(SEAL) James Leary: Corpsman
Cyril O'Reilly as HT2(SEAL) Class Homer Rexer: Explosives
Bill Paxton as MM2(SEAL) Floyd "God" Dane: Sniper
Dennis Haysbert as OSC(SEAL/SW) William "Billy" Graham: Team Chief
Paul Sanchez as RMSN Ramos: Communications and Arabic interpreter
Nicholas Kadi as Ben Shaheed
Ronald G. Joseph as Captain Ryan Dunne: Navy SEAL Commander
S. Epatha Merkerson as Jolena (a.k.a. Jo), Chief Graham's fiance
Gregory McKinney as U.S. Helicopter Pilot
Rob Moran as U.S. Helicopter Co-Pilot
Richard Venture as Admiral Colker
Andrew Lynch as Sgt Jodrell
The movie received negative reviews from critics. At the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 19% "Rotten" rating, based on 31 critics' reviews, which are summarized thus: "a non-winning military recruitment propaganda movie that happens to star Charlie Sheen and Michael Biehn."
The movie was not a box office success, debuting at No. 4 and eventually grossing $25 million domestically, just barely above its reported budget of $21 million.
The film was more successful on home video with a VHS released on January 31, 1991. A Blu-ray was released in 2009 in United States.
This film has scenes in San Fernando (Cádiz).