Amid aerial footage of Vancouver and BC Place stadium, a radio DJ publicizes Metallica's concert. An overweight heavy-metal fan drives into the empty parking lot, and climbs on the car's hood, whooping and laughing. Trip (Dane DeHaan), a roadie for Metallica, skateboards past the fan and wipes out. He skates into the underground parking lot and down the dressing-room halls, encountering each of the band members. When he gives a brown paper bag to his supervisor, Trip is told to stick around. After standing in the arena, he walks away as the audience files in to Metallica's traditional opener, "Ecstasy of Gold".
The band begins performing, and during "Creeping Death" Trip's boss tells him to bring gas to a stranded truck carrying "something very important". Before driving his van, Trip takes a blue-and-red capsule, before the band begins "For Whom the Bell Tolls".
As Metallica begins "Fuel", Trip drives down deserted streets. Distracted by his map, he runs a red light and sees a bloody hand print on an illuminated sign. He is T-boned, and his van flips, lightning flashing as he leaves, which leads into Ride the Lightning (alongside a steel electric chair surrounded by four Tesla coils reminiscent of the album's artwork.)
Trip crawls out of the van, peers into the other car and calls to the driver (who is standing with his back to him). The driver glances at Trip, and runs past him down the street, One beginning to be played. Trip retrieves the gas tank, the map and a doll with a noose around its neck from the van, which The Memory Remains is played to. He wanders down a street, and a police horse drags a dead officer across his path. People run past him, ignoring him, followed by police cruisers (one of which is ablaze). Emerging in the middle of a street, Trip realizes he is between a motionless group of rioters and riot police. The rioters then become rowdy, and when the police throw tear gas they swarm over them. Stunned by the violence, Trip stands in front of a window (which then shatters).
A rider in a gas mask on an armored horse charges, wielding a sledgehammer. He lassos a rioter, hanging him from a streetlamp. Trip throws a brick at the rider, who gives chase. Trip loses the doll, but escapes through a wall of rioters, surging into Cyanide.
He walks down a deserted, littered street, under a dozen bodies hanging from a pedestrian bridge, leading into ...And Justice for All. Trip finds the truck he is looking for in a deserted parking-garage corridor, but the driver (a middle-aged man) is traumatized and does not notice him. The back of the truck contains a leather bag, which Trip opens; he slumps, speechless, as the band breaks into Master of Puppets
He sees a figure waving at him from a distance. The rider approaches the figure, and a group of rioters surge past them. Trip grabs the bag and the can of gas, jumps out of the truck and flees.
He is cornered at the end of an alley by the rioters. Trip ties a black bandanna around his mouth, puts up his hood and drops the bag. He douses himself with the gas, sets himself ablaze and charges the rioters, who eventually overwhelm him, beginning Battery.
After the band finishes Nothing Else Matters, Trip wakes up (to "Enter Sandman") on the roof of a building; his lost doll, now animated, approaches the leather bag. As Trip gets up, he is lassoed and pulled onto the rider's horse. He grabs the rider's hammer to free himself and slams the roof with it. Shock waves rumble across the city, shattering glass and the exteriors of surrounding buildings and disintegrating the rider and his horse. The reverberation affects Metallica's concert, cutting the power and knocking down lighting trusses. With a backup generator, the band continues the concert without pyrotechnics and a light show, playing Hit the Lights.
Trip returns to the deserted stadium with the doll and the bag under his arm. The credits roll to scenes of the band performing "Orion" to the empty stadium. Trip takes a seat; the final shot is of the still-closed leather bag which belonged to Cliff Burton on the Master of Puppets tour.