Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams) arrives at the airport to take a red-eye flight from Texas back to Miami after attending her grandmother’s funeral. While waiting in the check-in line, she meets Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy), who is boarding the same plane. After their flight is delayed due to bad weather concerns, they meet again at an airport bar and engage in small talk while they wait. When boarding, Lisa discovers to her surprise that Jackson is seated beside her.
Soon after take off, Jackson reveals that he is a terrorist operative working for a group who intends to assassinate the United States Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, Charles Keefe (Jack Scalia), and his family. Lisa is instrumental in their plans because of her job as Acting Manager at the Lux Atlantic Hotel where the Keefe family is staying. The assassination plan is to use a portable missile launcher from a boat in a nearby harbor and fire it at the hotel. In order for this to work, Jackson must force Lisa to make a phone call from the in-flight phone and order the hotel staff to change Keefe’s reservation to a suite facing the harbor. If she refuses to cooperate, he will deploy a hitman to kill her father, Joe (Brian Cox), at his home in Miami.
Lisa attempts to find a way to keep both her father and Keefe safe. When she first places a call to the hotel, answered by her co-worker, Cynthia (Jayma Mays), the line goes dead midway through the conversation, and Lisa tries (unsuccessfully) to fool Jackson into thinking she is still ordering the room change, but Jackson catches on. She then makes two unsuccessful tries to alert the other passengers to the danger. She first attempts to write a warning in a book, when the old lady (Angela Paton) from the check-in line she met and gave the book to comes to talk to her about it, but Jackson knocks her unconscious and manages to get the book back before the woman sees the message. She tries again when the airphones go out due to the storms. Lisa goes to the restroom, and writes a warning in soap on the mirror, but Jackson confronts her and sees the writing on the mirror, and forces Lisa back inside. When Lisa begs him not to kill her father, Jackson simply responds by telling her she should stop gambling with his life. He then notices a scar above Lisa’s breast, and asks her if someone did that to her. When she tells him no, he believes that she is lying and briefly chokes her before wiping away the message.
When Lisa and Jackson return to their seats, Lisa makes the phone call, and the hotel staff move the politician to the targeted suite. After the call, she asks Jackson to call off the man outside her father’s house, but he refuses until he has confirmation of the assassination. As the plane lands, Lisa confesses that the knife scar was from a violent rape she suffered two years ago, which she swore she would never let happen again. She then stabs Jackson in the throat with a pen that she stole from another passenger, then takes his phone and flees the plane and terminal, narrowly escaping both Jackson and airport security. A little girl from the plane saw the whole thing and helps Lisa escape by pushing a suitcase into Jackson’s way, causing him to fall. Once outside, Lisa steals a nearby SUV. Noticing that the phone has a low-battery warning and could die at any time, she once again calls the hotel, alerting Cynthia to the danger. Cynthia pulls the fire alarm to evacuate the building and rushes to warn Keefe and his family, who are in the targeted suite. Cynthia, the Keefes, and U.S. Secret Service agents manage to escape from the room seconds before a Javelin missile hits.
Lisa, still driving, tries to call her father, but the cell phone’s battery dies. She rushes to her father’s house, arriving to find the hitman outside his door, and kills him with the car. Lisa finds her father inside, and he tells her that he has called the police because of the car crash. While Lisa phones the hotel to check that everyone is all right, Jackson arrives and knocks her father unconscious. He chases her through the house with a knife and they fight until Jackson manages to throw Lisa down a flight of stairs. Lisa retrieves the dead hitman’s gun from the floor and threatens Jackson with it. He attempts to escape, but Lisa shoots him before he can. He disarms and attacks her and is about to kill her when Lisa’s father takes a gun and shoots Jackson in the chest, puncturing his lung where he then bleeds to death. Later at the hotel, Keefe and the Secret Service thank Lisa and Cynthia for saving him and his family from the assassination. Bob and Marianne Taylor, two of the visitors at the hotel confront Lisa and Cynthia and angrily complain about their stay. Lisa tells them to fill out a comment card at the front desk, and then tells them to shove it up their ass.
A thriller in which the suspense gradually increases to a dramatic climax with the two main characters, a seemingly friendly but ultimately evil villain and an unfortunate victim trapped and apparently at his mercy, both excellently portrayed by Cillian Murphy and Rachel McAdams