The Greatest Beer Run Ever is a film based on the true story of Chickie Donohue who went to Vietnam during the Vietnam war to track down his friends and give them a beer and messages from home. The film is now streaming on Apple TV+.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
It’s 1967 and Chickie Donohue is partying with his friends in their childhood neighbourhood in New York. Chickie works in the Merchant Navy as an oiler and is on his vacation. His father and friends consider him a freeloader who won’t amount to anything.
It’s the middle of the Vietnam war and many of Chickie’s friends are fighting on the frontlines. Chickie’s sister, Christine is among those who believe the war is not a good idea and criticize the American government for its decisions.
Chickie doesn’t agree with that notion and is of a more patriotic mindset, believing that their men are fighting for the right reasons over there. He has also lost a few close friends in the war and doesn’t want their death to be in vain.
One day when they’re all having a few drinks at the bar, they discuss how the media is portraying the war and how it’s always bad news which brings down morale. Chickie casually suggests that their friends need someone to bring them some good old American beer and news from home to remind them that there are still people who support them.
He even suggests doing it himself since merchant ships are going to Vietnam all the time. The idea starts to catch on and everyone has messages or trinkets to give their loved ones in Vietnam that they pass on to Chickie.
His friends and family don’t think he’s being serious and let him know that he doesn’t need to go if he doesn’t want to. Chickie feels even more pressure now to prove that he’s not completely useless as everyone thinks.
He finds out that there is a ship heading out in 3 hours and he packs a bag full of beers and gets on it even though his sister tries to convince him that it’s a stupid idea.
He eventually reaches Saigon and tells the captain that he needs 3 days off to visit his brother on land and give him some bad news in person. Soon as he gets off, he meets some soldiers from the 127th MP company who take him to his friend, Tom Collins.
He spends the night with Tom and his company and when their superior walks in, Chickie says that he’s just there on his own delivering beers to his friends. The superior quietly walks away and the other soldiers tell Chickie that the sergeant just assumed he’s CIA.
Tom tells Chickie that his idea is crazy but he wants to go anyway. He goes to the hotel where the press are based and he meets a few reporters who tell him the real truth about the war and how they’re forced to hide what’s happening there.
The bartender tells Chickie that only military personnel are allowed to travel around so he gets another idea. He lets people assume that he’s in the CIA and gets to LZ Jane right in the middle of the action.
He meets another buddy of his, Rick Duggan, who once again admonishes him for doing something so stupid. Since he has no other option, he spends the night with Rick and other soldiers right in the trenches. Rick also lets him know that Reynolds, who he was supposed to meet next, is dead.
The next morning Rick tells him that he needs to go back home and Chickie gets on a copper with another CIA agent and a prisoner. The agent interrogates the man and then throws him off while they’re still in the air.
They land at the Kontum airbase and the other agent asks Chickie who he is and gets suspicious when Chickie claims he’s just another “tourist” like him. Chickie notices that he’s in trouble and sneaks away to get to the nearest airbase so that he can go back to Saigon.
He walks by himself until nighttime when he runs into some soldiers on a jeep. One of them happens to be his friend, Kevin McLoone. They say they’re headed to Kontum but Chickie says that he needs to get back to Saigon so McLoone obliges and gets him on a chopper back to Saigon.
Chickie heads to the harbour but finds out that his ship left early because there were rumours of an attack. He heads to the American embassy where his captain left a message telling him he can get on at Manila if he can get there in time.
After getting a time to come back and get his papers for travel, he heads to the hotel and meets the reporters from the press again. He talks to them about all that he witnessed and one of them, Arthur Coates, covers his tab and sits down with him to chat.
The Greatest Beer Run Ever ending explained in detail:
What happens at the embassy?
Chickie is talking with Coates at the hotel when sounds of gunfire are heard. They get news of an attack and Chickie and Coates rush towards the embassy.
They get there to find that it’s being run over by the Vietcong and there’s a heavy firefight going on. Chickie also notices an American tank blow a small hole in the perimeter wall.
They find a spot to hunker down at night and when they head back to the embassy in the morning, the reporters are told the hole is how the enemy snuck in but Chickie insists that it was their own people who shot the wall.
Does Chickie meet any more friends?
Right as they’re discussing the attack on the embassy, a blast is heard in the distance. Coates says that someone has attacked the Long Binh base. Chickie rushes out because his friend, Bobby Pappas is at that base.
Coates tells him that he doesn’t know where it is and they won’t let him in any way. He tells Coates to come with him so that he can get in and Coates agrees.
They get to the base and Chickie meets Bobby in the infirmary. Bobby tells Chickie what all the others told him, that it was a ridiculous idea to go there and it doesn’t benefit anyone, even if it is with the right intentions.
Bobby also tells him that their friend Tommy Minogue, who was MIA when he first came has been confirmed dead. Chickie finally manages to secure a flight to Manila so that he can get on his ship and go back home.
What happens after he gets back home?
When he gets back home, his friends treat him like a hero but Chickie is traumatised by what he witnessed in Vietnam. He tells them that while he doesn’t doubt the courage of his friends and the other soldiers, he’s not so sure what they’re fighting for.
He goes to the park where most of the protestors hang out and he lights a few candles in memory of the fallen. His sister walks up to him and scolds him for making them worry.
He apologizes and tells her that his experiences have given him a new outlook on things. He plans to do a lot more thinking and a lot less drinking.