Warning: Recap Contains Spoilers
Bob Lee Swagger (Ryan Phillippe) is the most skillful marksman in the history of the Marine Corps, but is now living a quiet life with his wife and daughter in Washington state. One day he gets a visit from a former Corps buddy (Omar Epps) who appeals to his patriotic duty when he asks Swagger to help prevent an assassination attempt on the President. But Swagger’s good deed goes horribly wrong and puts him in the crosshairs of some very powerful, very determined people.
Bob Lee Swagger has a sharp nickname to go with his Corps history, but he is a family man, a doting father to six-year-old Mary and husband to Julie. He knows the power of the weapons he uses and is responsible with them, even lecturing fellow hunters who don’t respect the sport. His daughter’s bedtime stories are all (presumably very G-rated) versions of his overseas missions.
“A bullet is forever”
Swagger is carrying around the guilt of losing his spotter, Donnie, on a mission in Kandahar. Under the command of Isaac Johnson, they had gotten the green light to go after the infamous Chechen sniper, T. Solotov. Even though there’d been no sign of Solotov for a week, Swagger was on guard. Still, he ended up leading Donnie right into the sniper’s path. Swagger was hit first in the hip when Solotov miscalculated the wind, but his second shot killed Donnie. Swagger puts the people and country he cares about first and remembers his friend each year by sending flowers to Donnie’s mother.
The president needs you
One day when Swagger is home with his daughter, Johnson comes to ask for his help. Johnson is now leading up the President’s Secret Service advance team and says they have a credible threat. Ten days ago a CIA agent was killed by a sniper in Virginia from 1,400 yards away and a note was found saying the President will be executed at an upcoming Seattle appearance. They think it’s Solotov. Johnson, along with Agent Payne of Homeland Security, want Swagger’s help figuring out how Solotov will take his shot.
Payne sends Swagger a replica of Solotov’s rifle and Swagger does recon on all the possible hides for the shot, settling on three options. One is an apartment building almost three-quarters of a mile away, but Swagger rules it out because a giant flag will be hanging in the sight line. He settles on a small shed from across the water.
Fishy background checks
FBI Agent Nadine Memphis wants out of her field office in Seattle. She is driven and determined, and still paying the professional price for once shooting a hostage, which, as it turns out, is not good for career advancement. She meets Johnson and Payne after they get in the way of her operation with a Russian source. He had claimed to have intel on something big that is about to go down in the Ukraine. After stealing her source, the FBI sends over a stack of low-level threats against the president to be cleared – Swagger’s file is among them. Memphis thinks Swagger’s inclusion is odd, given his decorated career, and mentions it to her boss, who blows her off. But Memphis isn’t one to let something go.
“Underestimate Bob Lee Swagger at your own peril”
Johnson cautions Payne about Swagger, telling him the R-rated Kandahar bedtime story: Swagger and his spotter saw the Taliban approaching a girl’s school while out on a mission. Even though they were alone and hugely outnumbered, they took on more than 200 Taliban for over 46 hours, just moving and shooting; they didn’t sleep, didn’t eat, and had 51 kills. To this day, the Taliban stays away from the school because they think it’s cursed.
The day of the president’s visit, with his recon complete, Swagger and his wife head to the site of the president’s speech. But Payne radios that Solotov isn’t where Swagger expected. In the next few moments, Swagger’s life changes forever. First, he realizes Solotov is going to blow the rigging on the giant flag – the first option Swagger scouted and dismissed. Swagger races to the first option hide – an apartment. He finds the sniper rifle set up for the shot, but the room is empty. At that moment, a shot rings out at the president’s location.
Inside the apartment, Payne confronts Swagger and draws on him. Swagger jumps from three stories up as Payne fires on him. He crashes onto the roof of a car but survives. Agent Memphis finds him and draws on him. Our hero insists: “My name is Bob Lee Swagger; I did not kill the president.”