The film opens inside a café where we see a young boy trying to get a prize from a claw machine game but failing to do so. A young man, Nic (Brenton Thwaites) who is walking out with hand crutches sees him and asks what prize he is going for. The boy points it out, so Nic uses an erasable marker to point out exactly where the boy needs to drop the claw to get his prize. Nic asks the boy if he has any money and the boy shakes his head no. Nic gives him a dollar and wishes him luck.
We cut to a traveling montage of Nic, Haley (Olivia Cooke), his girlfriend, and Jonah (Beau Knapp) their best friend. We see them at the carnival; we see Jonah and Nic running deep into the forest. We see Nic running alone until he gets to a river which has washed away a path. He stands and watches the water run.
Nic wakes up. He is in a hotel room with Haley and Jonah. Nic hears his phone beeping. He looks at it and sees a message from “NOMAD” a hacker that has been taunting them. He wakes Jonah up and they retreat to the bathroom and open up their email. They begin sending messages to NOMAD. NOMAD apparently hacked the servers of MIT and messed with personnel files including theirs. However, the trio were almost blamed and where almost kicked out of school. Nic tells NOMAD they will find him. To show the two who is really in charge, NOMAD sends an email attachment which video links from inside their hotel room. Nic looks behind himself to see where Haley is sleeping next to her laptop. NOMAD hacked her web camera. Nic closes it in anger.
Nic and Jonah begin an all out search, tracing the IP address of NOMAD. They finally locate him to Goodsprings, Nevada and congratulate each other. They realize they can finally confront the person that almost ruined their lives. In the middle of their congratulations, Haley wakes up and reminds them they have to drive in the morning so they better get some sleep.
We now learn that the purpose of the trip is not exactly about finding NOMAD. It is about helping Haley move to California where she will be continuing her schooling there. Nick has clearly been avoiding the issue.
At a gas station, Nic goes to get coffee. Haley asks Jonah if Nic has talked about her moving to California for a year. Jonah says they are both his friends and it isn’t his place to comment on this. She will have to ask Nic.
They see Nic come out with the coffee but he stumbles with his crutches and falls, spilling the coffee all over his shirt. Nic is angry and embarrassed as they come to help him. Nic says he will go buy more coffee. Haley comes in and tries to be cute to cheer him up but Nic is not having it. Haley tells him she decided to help in their NOMAD search not because he needed the help, but because he felt he didn’t. Nic gives her an angry response, and she storms off.
Nic goes to Jonah and tells them they should go get NOMAD since they are so close. Nic notices Haley is missing and Jonah tells him she walked off.
Nic finds her and they discuss their relationship, and his unwillingness to talk about her moving. Nic attempts to think about it logically; ever since his accident (implied to be from a marathon competition) he is not sure about his quality of life, or even if he will end up in a wheelchair eventually. Nic doesn’t want to her to sacrifice her dreams for him. Haley however sees his thinking as running away from his problems and her; the exact opposite of what he has told her to always do (that is tackle problems head on). Haley takes off a necklace he gave her and tries to give it back. When he refuses, she apparently tosses it over a cliff side to his surprise.
The three continue to drive towards NOMAD’s location. Nic is hesitant to bring Haley along but Haley is angry at Nic agrees to go with them. “I want to meet this asshole,” she says.
Later, in complete darkness, they find the location of NOMAD, apparently at an abandoned trailer. Haley stays in the car (with Haley noting to him, “Nic you know this is stupid right?”) while Jonah and Nic investigate. Jonah immediately wants to bail thinking it is unlikely that NOMAD would reside here but Nic is firm in looking further, seeing how much he has given up tracking this hacker down.
They find random objects in the house but no NOMAD. Nic finds a basement and they go downstairs. While they don’t find any computers, they find server racks which give credibility to the idea that NOMAD had been at the location. Suddenly they hear Haley scream. The two race back to the car, seeing all the doors open and the radio going crazy. Haley is nowhere to be found. Nic and Jonah search with flashlights around until they see Haley in the distance…being lifted into the sky. They race towards her.
Random flash cutting of their pursuit ensue.
Nic comes to in a stark white room. He is strapped to a wheelchair, clad in only a hospital gown. Near him, stands a man in a white hazmat suit. That man leaves and another hazmat suit man enters and sits down with a tape recorder. He introduces himself to Nic as Dr. Weyland Damon (Laurence Fishburne). Damon wants to know what happened to Nic but Nic doesn’t understand what he is talking about. “I need you to tell me about the first time you encountered The Signal,” Damon asks. Still, Nic is clueless about what Damon wants and asks what is going on, asking about Jonah and Haley. Damon tells him that he and his friends came in contact with an EBE, an extraterrestrial biological entity. Nic asks to see his friends, call his parents. Both requests are denied. Nic asks again about the EBE, do they believe it to be microbiological or micro fungal, but Damon stops him, seeing something dripping out of Nic. However, it is just a nosebleed.
Nic is taken back to a sterile hospital room.
The following day, he is wheeled around the facility. As he wheels by rooms, he notices several of them being cleaned out or closed off completely. He looks into one room and sees Haley on a hospital bed. He tries to go back and see her but is denied by his guard.
Damon wants to ask Nic some questions in a yes or no format and starts with a series of control questions such as “Do you come from Earth?” Nic doesn’t understand why the test is needed and shows his displeasure. Damon brings in a television and plays Nic the tape of the shack footage that Jonah filmed. Pausing during a shot of a tree, Damon zooms in till Nick sees what he wants him to see. Nic recoils in horror; there is an alien figure hiding between the branches. Damon tells him in a matter of fact manner that NOMAD wasn’t some hacker.
Back at his room, Nic throws his food off the table in anger and disbelief. Suddenly he hears Jonah’s voice coming from a vent. Jonah tells Nic something is very wrong with the people holding them and fears that he has been experimented on.
During another test, Damon wants Nic to correspond certain tiles to shapes. Nic is angry by the lack of answers and candor and passively aggressively completes the test for Damon. He then tells Damon that until he sees Haley he will not say another word. Damon allows it and Nic notices there is no update of treatment for her. Damon tells Nic she is in a coma and the second she wakes up, he will be able to speak to her.
Not willing to take Damon’s word, Nic plans an escape. Cracking up breadcrumbs, Nic spreads them on a keypad so he can notice which keys are being pressed. Talking to Jonah, they figure out the combination is 7521. Jonah then tells Nic, “I can’t feel my arms” (important later) and then in a panic leaves. Nic calls out to him but Jonah is gone.
Damon in another part of the facility is watching a cow through a pane of glass. They put on music to “agitate” whatever is in there. The lights go out and a chair is thrown at the glass which does not shatter. The cow is cowering in the corner. Due to this activity, a breach occurs and Nic is locked down with two hazmat guards in a room. When they leave, Nic notices long, deep cuts in the walls.
Nic is interrogated again by Damon. Nic asks about Jonah; he knows that they know he has been talking to him through the vent in his room. Damon nods and confirms that they have been listening in on his conversations. Nic then goes on a monologue about how out of date the facility is and how Damon is behind the times. “You are an antiquated dinosaur,” Nic tells him. Nic goes on to say him, Jonah, or NOMAD could easily expose them and bring their whole world crashing down. Nic then demands to be told what happened to Jonah.
Damon then reveals that Jonah was never recovered. Jonah hasn’t been in the facility. Nic has been talking to himself. Nic denies the claim.
Later, Damon and his team are in his Nic’s room. They investigate his bed and find the drawings he made outlining the entire facility. Nic tries to escape with Haley on her hospital bed. Despite having some close calls, Nic makes it to the exit but can’t reach the keypad to open the door (remember he can’t use his legs). He tries to use tubing to punch in the numbers but by the time he gets the third one punched, Damon is there to take him back.
Nic dreams of running, competing, and spending time with Haley.
Nic wakes up to Haley who has finally awoken. They say hello and reach for each other to hold hands. A hazmat man sees that and pushes them away. Nic yells at them and tries to reach for Haley again. Two men try to restrain him but he struggles and falls off his bed. Seeing black blood on their suits, the men panic and leave the room. Nic looks down and sees what freaked them out; his legs have been replaced with cybernetic legs of alien origin. He understandably freaks out (and in a quick moment of humor, checks to see if they have messed with his genitals). Damon, who has been watching behind a window, speaks to Nic and tells him this is why they kept him in the dark as trying to explain what had happened would be too difficult. They want to help him and Haley but he has to calm down and hook himself back into a nearby IV. Nic instead stands near the door and braces himself. He kicks the door down with his new legs and pushes Haley to the exit.
Damon stoically follows them, surveying the damage he has created and the researchers he has hurt along the way. At the elevator to the surface, he confronts Nic. He tells Nic he is only safe down in the facility and he cannot protect him up there. “I can only safeguard you from them down here,” Damon says.
“Safeguard me from who?” Nic replies, not understanding what Damon saying but could not care less. He has had enough. He pushes Damon back and gets the elevator closed and rides it up with Haley.
Nic pushes Haley down a long dark corridor, finding himself in a sewer like system with three paths. He chooses one and finds himself out in the desert in the middle of nowhere. Waking Haley up, they begin to walk, looking for help.
Damon preps his team to go track Nic and Haley down.
After walking a while, out of nowhere, Nic and Haley see a car driving. The driver, Mirabelle (Lin Shaye) picks them up and drives them to the nearest gas station. Mirabelle seems to be delusional religious woman who thinks she can hear “God’s little angels” speak to her.
Mirabelle drops them off wishing them well. Nic goes into the nearby bar looking for a phone. He finds one but it doesn’t work. He then looks up to the television where the news has classified Haley and him as biohazard threats that should be considered dangerous. Nic looks out where he left Haley and see her enter a truck that is leaving (despite his directions to stay put). Nic races after the truck and tries to get it to stop but the driver pushes him away. Then, Nic, getting in sync with his new legs begins to run very fast and catch up with the truck. The driver, James (Robert Longstreet) reaches for his gun but finds it missing. He looks to the passenger seat and sees Haley there pointing the gun at his head. He immediately stops the truck. Nic and Haley steal it and drive off.
Damon races with his team, still searching for the two.
As Nic drives, Haley notices his legs for the first time and is freaked out. She asks him what happened to him.
Damon sets up a roadblock and pulls over Mirabelle, carrying a red briefcase. He asks Mirabelle to accompany him and she does.
Nic suddenly has to stop the truck. They got out and find that the road just ends abruptly, leaving a cliff in front of them. Nic and Haley realize they have no clue where they really are.
Damon talks to Mirabelle about Nic and Haley but Mirabelle seems more unstable than when she first encountered them. Damon sighs and opens his briefcase. Inside is a pistol. It is inferred he kills Mirabelle.
Nic, after turning around, finds a building, a visitor center and tells Haley they will stay there for the time being. Nic searches for a working telephone, but none of them work. More strangely, all the paperwork he finds his blank. He finds Haley looking a site map but they both realize they don’t recognize the geography, or have a sense of direction in regards of where to go.
Haley walks off outside. Nic finds her. Haley hears a sound but Nic doesn’t hear anything. He tells her they will stay the night at the visitor center. Haley asks if everything that has happened was her fault. Nic shakes his head. “No, it’s mine,” he says. Haley asks if his legs hurt. Nic says no.
We see Damon and his team lock down a building. Nic and Haley hear something while they are sleeping outside and go to hide. We are led to believe Damon has found them but in actuality, they have quarantined James in his home. Damon goes to speak to him and is calm despite James pointing a shotgun at him. James talks about his family being there with him (which they are not). Damon nods along and tells James he was strong. James tries to shoot Damon but his shotgun doesn’t have any shells to his shock. Damon tells him it is okay and shoots him in the chest, killing him. He then covers James’ body with a blanket and pats his shoulder.
Meanwhile, Nic and Haley hide only to be confronted by a Hazmat man. But it isn’t one of Damon’s men. It is Jonah. He escaped the facility.
Nic and Jonah watch Haley sleep. They notice a mark on the back on her neck. She had been experimented on too (explaining her strange behavior). Nic and Jonah discuss their situation. Jonah believes they are in Area 51 given their tattoo (220.127.116.11). Nic is disbelieving but Jonah counters given the strange locals and their lack of plausible geography. “We are trapped on a government annex,” Jonah says. Jonah shows Nic his arms with have been replaced with cybernetic implants like his legs. Nic and Jonah decide to try and drive through a checkpoint and get out the area.
Jonah drives the truck in his suit with Nic and Haley in the back. He goes up to the checkpoint and for the moment seems like he will get through. However, they want him to get out and he panics. Jonah tries to floor it but the guards trip a cinderblock hold under the truck that keeps it in place. Jonah punches a guard and takes his gun, firing off some rounds. He fights some other guards and runs into a building. Nic and Haley are crouching near the truck, unable to do anything.
Jonah sees a laptop and grabs it while he is taking fire by the guards. He tries to override the gate controls but has no luck. One hazmat guy shoots a concussion grenade into the building, causing it to explode, and disorienting Jonah greatly. Jonah walks out in a daze and gets shot twice. Fatally wounded, he goes to Nic and tells him to get in the truck with Haley. When he gives the signal, he needs them to go. Nic doesn’t want to leave without him but Jonah is firm. “I NEED YOU TO GO!” Jonah screams. Nic and Haley get into the truck and Jonah uses his arm to smash the cinderblock hold on the truck. Nic peels away, leaving Jonah behind. Crying and screaming, Jonah punches the ground with his arms, causing shockwaves on the ground, knocking Hazmat men the ground. He does this several times buying his friends time but knowing he will eventually be killed.
Cut to Nic and Haley, devastated in knowing that their friend is dead.
Their escape is short lived. In the distance, they see Damon has set up a roadblock. Unsure what to do, Nic continues to drive towards it, despite seeing all the guns pointed at them. Damon nods to two men who throw down a spike strip. Nic hits it, blowing the tires and causing the truck to flip.
Time passes. Nic and Haley are beaten and broken, having crawled out of the truck cab. Nic looks at Haley unable to do anything. He flashes back to the time they spent together. Haley whispers that she loves him. She hands him something as Hazmat men grab her and evacuate her to a waiting chopper. Nic looks at his hand. It is the necklace he thought she threw away. She hadn’t.
Nic gets up as Damon walks up to him. Nic looks at the helicopter flying away. Damon tells him not to bother as he cannot catch them. Nic notices a “Damon” sticker Damon’s suit and realizes that DAMON is NOMAD backwards. “You’re NOMAD!” Nic says incredulously. Damon confirms this fact, saying he put out the signal, a signal that few had found, but Nic and his friends did. Damon also indirectly reveals that they were the ones that experimented on Nic and his friends. They were looking for the perfect combination of “human will and alien technology.” Damon tells Nic that he can blame him, but Nic was the one who came searching for him. So the question remains; was Nic who they have been searching for?
Nic stares at Damon and his men who train guns at him. Nic thinks of running again, of kissing Haley. Emotions course through his veins. He screams, his legs glowing fire red and causing the ground to crack. Nic begins to run fast, literally running through a car. Damon’s men fire at him, but Nic is too fast. He runs faster and faster until he crashes through a barrier like glass. He finds himself in a building like structure. Turning around he sees he crashed through the desert zone. Everything he has been has been a simulation. Damon calmly walks up to the end of the simulation and removes his hazmat helmet. He shows Nic the back of his head, showing he is an alien hybrid.
The horrifying realization hits Nic; all the “government officials” including Damon are aliens. Everyone else are human abduction victims being slowly driven insane by failing to condition to the alien technology (that’s why James and Mirabelle went mad after coming into contact with Haley and him).
Nic looks out the window and sees that he is at an unknown space station about to dock with an unknown planet. His best friend is dead, his girlfriend has been taken to be further experimented on, and he is alone on an alien planet with no clue on what to do next and no hope of getting home.
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