Two trouble-making adolescent brothers are sent to live with their estranged father in West Africa, only to find themselves in a desperate fight for their lives when a group camping trip in the desert goes terribly wrong. Based on a true story.
Stuck in bland suburbia of Plano, Texas, WILL (11) and his brother CHARLIE (14), sorely miss their father PHILIP, a U.S. Aid worker on assignment in Mali, West Africa. Acting out, the boys vandalize a neighbor’s house, prompting their mother, SYLVIA, to send the boys to live with their estranged father for the summer.
Desperate to bond with their father and experience his exotic, adventurous life, Will and Charlie look forward to joining Philip on a camping trip planned by the embassy in the Malian desert. Unfortunately, at the last minute, Philip has to bail. Now feeling betrayed, Will and Charlie, along with ALAIN (14), the son of a French diplomat, are left to join a group of other American and French embassy kids for an overnight camping trip into the desert led by two incompetent adults – STUART, a naïve, ex-Boy Scout and JACK, an alcoholic Iraq War vet. High-spirited Will quickly becomes staunch enemies with uptight priggish Stuart, while forming an unlikely bond with hard-drinking sardonic Jack.
Then disaster strikes. When their return train back to ‘civilization’ fails to show up, the group, unprepared for more than two days in the desert, quickly find themselves stranded without food and water.
Meanwhile, back in the city of Bamako, ravaged by guilt for not being with his sons, Philip joins with Alain’s father, DR. CHIVOS, embarking on a desperate rescue trip into the desert, hoping to get to the boys with food and water before it is too late.
Back at the campsite, the group starts to unravel. Stuart goes AWOL and Jack descends into alcohol withdrawal. The kids wilt from lack of food and water. In the
spirit of the father he so clearly wants to emulate, Will takes charge, determined to save the group. Against Jack’s wishes, Will leads Charlie and Alain on a dangerous trek into the African desert in search of food and water. As they struggle to stay alive, the three boys battle heat stroke, an angry elephant, and each other.
Back at the campsite, an angry Stuart realizes the boys are missing and sets off after them. Meanwhile our three amigos spot a small village where they find water and some chickens. Will befriends a young girl who distracts other villagers while they steal the chickens. Some hunters give chase but the boys escape into the dark cover of the desert. They arrive back at camp to find Stuart still gone. They kill the chickens and try to cook them, feathers and all, burning them to a crisp. Stuart returns in a rage and throws the half cooked chickens away. The boys suffer through the night.
We rejoin the two fathers on their perilous rescue mission, only to find their jeep has broken an axel on a treacherous dirt road in the middle of nowhere. They are stuck!
Back at camp, the kids are suddenly confronted by a group of angry hunters from the village, looking for their chickens, which were apparently for sacrificial purposes. Stuart, crazed and delirious, pulls a gun on the hunters, who back off. As Charlie and Alain tackle Stuart, Will grabs the gun. In a fit of rage, Will threatens to shoot Stuart, but Jack calms him down and takes the gun. Stuart runs off. Jack tries to apologize to the hunters, who disappear, leaving the group to die in the blazing sun. Drifting into delirious sleep, Will, dreams of his more normal life back home in Texas with his parents. The dream turns into a nightmare. He snaps awake to find the hunters in his face. They have returned with water and food! One by one, the boys are revived. In a climactic ritual celebration, the hunter chief praises Will as “a brave hunter” and insists he dance with the young girl who has tagged along with the hunters. What a life changing experience for Will! He has become a man, despite the absence of his father!
When the train finally arrives, the boys thank the hunters for saving their lives. They board the train to find Stuart’s dead body, picked up on the tracks a few miles back. The boys stare at the body. Death is real. So is life, now. On the way, the train stops to pick up Will and Alain's fathers, who finally made it to the railroad tracks on foot after their jeep broke down. Will, happy to be reunited with his father, tells the whole story. Back in the village the hunter chief tells the story about the young white boys who stole their chickens.