Army Sgt. Johnny Gallagher (Gene Hackman) is reassigned after he angers Col. Glen Whitacre (John Heard) at a meeting of American and U.S.S.R. military types. Gallagher's new job is to shepherd detainee Thomas Boyette (Tommy Lee Jones) from Europe to the U.S. But when Gallagher loses track of his prisoner, he asks his ex-wife, a servicewoman with access to Boyette's background data, for help. As the chase leads Gallagher to Chicago, the intrigue ramps up in way he couldn't have imagined.