Chain Reaction is a 1996 American action film directed by Andrew Davis, starring Keanu Reeves, Morgan Freeman, Rachel Weisz, Fred Ward, Kevin Dunn and Brian Cox. It presents a fictional account of the invention of a new non-contaminating power source based on hydrogen and the attempts by the United States Government to prevent the spreading of this technology.
Eddie Kasalivich is a student machinist working with a team from the University of Chicago to obtain clean energy from water by efficiently splitting the hydrogen and oxygen molecules. While working at home, Eddie inadevertently discovers the secret. The machine is perfected the next day in the lab and everything appears to be working and stable. However, after a party to celebrate it, their laboratory is sabotaged, which leads to a chain reaction that destroys the lab and the surrounding streets and the lab manager is killed, while anotherthe other one is missing. As rescue crews arrive, Eddie is questioned by the police and later the FBI about what happened the night of the blast. Upon returning with Lily to their homes, they realize that they are being framed as fake evidence is planted in both of their houses.
Both go on the run and head to an observatory belonging to Maggie McDermott, an old friend of Eddie's. After resting up, they contact Paul Shannon, the man funding the project (along with DARPA), but they're almost caught in the process and barely manage to escape. As Eddie and Lily are evading more police, Paul meets with Lyman Earl Collier at C-Systems Research complex to discuss the current events. It becomes apparent that the plot to destroy the lab and frame Eddie and Lily for it was orchestrated by the company and that Lyman is responsible. Despite some disagreement because of Lyman´s ruthlessness, Paul and Lyman decide to continue the hunt for Eddie and Lily, a task made easier when Eddie sends a coded message to Paul requesting another place to meet. At this new rendezvous, Paul reveals he was involved, but wants to talk somewhere else. The meeting ends in an ambush and Lily is captured as Eddie barely escapes.
By tracing the license plate on the van used in the ambush, Eddie is able to track them to the C-Systems Research facility where Lily and Chen, the missing one, are being held. When C-Systems' test reactor fails again, Paul, the scientists, and the prisoners all leave the room, so Eddie takes the opportunity to "fix" the system. The next morning, one of the other scientists discovers the working reactor and everyone celebrates. Paul is suspicious and immediately obtains a download of the working data and secretly gives it to his assistant, Anita for safekeeping. He then finds Eddie at a computer in the company boardroom. There Eddie and Paul talk about what Shannon had done and Shannon explains the purpose of this government conspiracy to prevent technology from being used, if its consequences would be too fatal for the world until it is capable to be absorbed, which would be in this case because of the fact that the world is dependant on oil. Eddie understands the position but differs about the methods and demands, when Lyman enters, to be let go in exchange for making the reactor work. Paul agrees but Lyman refuses, believing that the process already works, so Eddie sets the reactor to explode while sending proof of his innocence to the FBI and blueprints of the reactor to "hopefully a couple thousand" international scientists. Lyman responds by shooting Chen dead, then leaving both Eddie and Lily to die in the explosion as he, Paul, and their staff flee the site, setting lockdown doors on the way.
Paul shoots Lyman for overstepping the bounds of the program in every way and for being too ruthless, leaving his body in an elevator to be incinerated in the ensuing inferno. During his own escape, Paul deactivates the containment, letting Eddie and Lily escape, and Lyman's remains to be destroyed. As he is doing this, Eddie and Lily struggle with one of Lyman's henchmen over an ascending construction lift, ending in Eddie and Lily climbing aboard it, moments before a blast wave sweeps into the tunnel.
Both Eddie and Lily survive the shockwave to be met by FBI now convinced of their innocence, who take them to safety, while Paul departs the scene via chauffeured sedan. He is last seen dictating a memo to Anita. The memo informs the Director of CIA that C-System is "...no longer a viable entity. Will be in contact.", while the car drives away.
When he tries to talk about it to authorities after his event, he discovers that they think he and the other project survivors committed the crime. In reality, a group of energy companies have conspired with interested parties in the government to completely erase all notion of the existence of a way to use water as fuel. The project sponsor (Morgan Freeman) wants Eddie to turn himself in, but before he can do that, he must find enough evidence to clear himself and his friends. But in order to succeed, Eddie must avoid assassination attempts by the real perpetrators.
- Keanu Reeves as Eddie Kasalivich
- Morgan Freeman as Dr. Paul Shannon
- Rachel Weisz as Dr. Lily Sinclair
- Fred Ward as FBI Agent Leon Ford
- Kevin Dunn as FBI Agent Doyle
- Brian Cox as Lyman Earl Collie
- Joanna Cassidy as Maggie McDermott
- Nicholas Rudall as Dr. Alistair Barkley
- Tzi Ma as Dr. Lu Chen
- Eddie Bo Smith Jr. as Yusef Reed
- Danny Goldring as Clancy Butler