At a missile base in Chelyabinsk, Russia, SS-18 ICBMs are being decommissioned. Ten nuclear warheads are loaded onto a train and sent to a separate site for dismantling. However, a high-ranking Russian general, Aleksandr Kodoroff, has other plans. Along with a rogue tactical unit, he kills all the soldiers on board the transport train and then transfers nine of the warheads to another train. Kodoroff then activates the timer on the remaining warhead and sends the transport on a collision course with a passenger train. Minutes later, the 500-kiloton warhead detonates, killing the survivors and delaying an investigation.
The detonation immediately attracts the attention of the US government. White House nuclear expert Dr. Julia Kelly (Kidman) believes that Chechen terrorists are behind the incident. US Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Devoe (Clooney) interrupts her briefing to suggest that the crash and detonation were staged to hide the hijacking of the other warheads on board. A call to Devoe's long-time friend and Russian counterpart, Dimitri Vertikoff (Mueller-Stahl), adds credence to his hypothesis and he is assigned as Dr. Kelly's military liaison.
Kelly and Devoe try to track the terrorists through an Austrian trucking company which is a front for the Russian Mafia. When the Mafia realizes they are U.S. government agents, they send thugs to kill them. Vertikoff, thinking he can pay them off, is killed. Devoe kills most of the would-be assassins, and he and Kelly escape. Information from the trucking company shows that the nukes are bound for Iran. Spy satellites place the truck in a traffic jam in Dagestan, and Devoe uses a ruse to identify it. The satellite, tracking in real time, is able to verify its license plate.
Stopped at a checkpoint, Kodoroff and his men kill the guards. Devoe then leads a special forces unit to stop them. Denied entry into Russian airspace, one of the helicopters is shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile battery, but the remaining helicopters are able to locate the truck carrying the warheads. A gunfight ensues in which Kodoroff is killed and the warheads are seized. Interrogation of the surviving member of the group reveals that one warhead was taken by another man.
Further work on the information from the trucking company leads IFOR to a Sarajevo address. Inside is a video cassette of a Yugoslav named Dušan Gavrić (Iureş). Gavrić disclaims any allegiance in the Yugoslav Wars ("I am a Serb, a Croat, and a Muslim"), but blames other countries for supplying weapons to all sides in the war. Dr. Kelly realizes he intends to bomb a meeting at the UN headquarters in New York City and the city goes into lockdown. Gavrić arrives in Manhattan with the Bosnian diplomatic delegation. A flashback shows that Gavrić wants to avenge the death of his wife and daughter, who were killed in Sarajevo's Sniper Alley. He and his brother are finally found by the New York Police Department. When his brother is killed by Devoe, a wounded Gavrić is followed into a parochial school and then a small church. Devoe confronts Gavrić, who commits suicide, knowing that the bomb is set to go off in a matter of minutes and cannot be deactivated. With only seconds to spare, Dr. Kelly is able to remove a part of the explosive lens shell of the bomb, preventing the primary explosion from establishing critical mass within the plutonium core. The primary wrecks the church, but the warhead itself does not detonate. Devoe and Kelly both survive with minor injuries.
- George Clooney as Lt. Col. Thomas Devoe
- Nicole Kidman as Dr. Julia Kelly
- Marcel Iures as Dušan Gavrić
- Aleksandr Baluev as General Aleksander Kodoroff
- Sebastian Roché as German Backpacker
- Rene Medvešek as Vlado Mirich
- Randall Batinkoff as Ken
- Holt McCallany as Mark Appleton
- Armin Mueller-Stahl as Dimitri Vertikoff
- Goran Višnjić as Bazta Sergeant
- Michael Boatman as Lieutenant Beach
- Carlos Gomez as Captain Santiago
The film earned $41,263,140 domestically and $69,200,000 elsewhere, bringing its total to $110,463,140. It was open to mixed reviews, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 41% "Rotten" rating and Metacritic giving it a score of 43%.
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