Chain of Command
Mike Connelly is part of the President's bodyguard but he has no respect for the new president, Jack Cahill. He is close to resigning but is placed on 'football' duty by the team leader - Burke. The football is the laptop that the President carries with him wherever he goes, that can activate the US defence system. Being on football duty means that Connelly's first duty is to the safekeeping of the football, and NOT Cahill.
When China and Taiwan have political problems, President Cahill agrees to a meeting with President Fung of Taiwan, who is a former pupil, friend. The meeting is to take place on Fung's luxury ship. The bodyguards arrive ahead of time to discuss safety with Fung's people. On arrival, Burke greets Craig Thornton, who is head of Fung's security.
Thornton is a former US Presidential bodyguard who left six months previously due to his intense dislike of Cahill. He had decided that he did not want to take a bullet for Cahill. Burke remarks that Fung must be paying better too as Thornton is wearing a very expensive suit. As a mark of respect, Thornton agrees not to carry a weapon.
The President arrives and all seems to be going okay at first. During the evening meal, the ship seems to come under attack. As the attackers get closer to the heart of the ship where Fung and Cahill are being protected by Thornton and Burke, Burke hands Thornton his spare gun as a mark of respect and trust.
However, all is not as it appears, and Thornton turns the gun on Burke and kills him. The attack is a ruse perpetrated by Fung to get hold of football and the means to access it.
Connelly learns too late that one of the three bodyguards assigned to football duty has been compromised. His family had been taken hostage and threatened with death if he did not help Fung's people. Cahill is drugged and forced to activate the system, giving Thornton access to the US missiles. He launches an attack on China.
In the meantime, Connelly has found help in the form of Fung's beautiful female bodyguard, Iris, who is actually a Chinese agent undercover. When they realise the ship has been rigged to explode, they have to escape fast.
Thornton and Fung take Cahill and the football off the ship in the launch. They arrive at a deserted dock and enter a warehouse. They are met by Chinese General Wei, who has agreed to help Fung in overthrowing the Chinese government.
Back in the USA, Vice President Valdez tries everything to stop the missile that is heading towards Beijing. The Chinese launch a single missile in retaliation, aimed at Washington DC. All efforts on Valdez's part fail and she is forced to watch the screens as first Beijing and then Washington DC is destroyed in a nuclear attack.
A full nuclear strike is sent towards China. The Chinese president refuses to accept that the US was not in control of the missile that destroys China's capital city, or the new attack and launch a full nuclear strike against the USA. However, Valdez has no means of stopping the US missiles as the system is under the control of Thornton and Fung.
Connelly and Iris reach the dock and begin to eliminate the guards. When Connelly enters the warehouse, Thornton is waiting to ambush him. They both shoot and are both hit, Thornton badly hit in the chest. General Wei is standing close by but Connelly tells him to leave immediately, which he does. Fung tries to use Cahill as a shield but Cahill reminds Connelly that his duty is not to him but to the football. Connelly shoots Cahill who falls, exposing Fung, who is then killed by Connelly.
Fung's head bodyguard manages to slip up behind Iris as she keeps the Chinese soldiers pinned down. He strangles her.
Connelly had deliberately aimed to injure but not kill Cahill. He helps Cahill access the US defence system to stop the missiles heading for China. Just before he can press the final key sequence, he is fatally wounded by Fung's remaining head bodyguard. Cahill completes the sequence while Connelly kills the bodyguard. His final actions gain Connelly's respect as he realises that, beneath all the superficial layers and trappings of wealth, Cahill had been a good man, dedicated to the US and its people.
Back in the US, Valdez is relieved when the US missiles are destroyed and contacts the Chinese President, telling him they have regained control, but he refuses to destroy China's missiles that are still heading towards the US. Valdez tells the Chinese President to destroy his missiles or the US will launch an attack. He does not believe her, and calls her bluff, only to discover that she is NOT bluffing.
Realising that the only possible outcome now is the destruction of both their countries, the Chinese President orders his missiles to be destroyed, now forced to trust Valdez will do the same with the US missiles.
The war is averted.
Last scene in the warehouse:
As Connelly walks away alone, with the football in his hand, Thornton calls out to him. Thornton is lying in a slowly increasing pool of blood. He has been shot dead center in the chest.
Thornton: You too a bullet for him
Connelly carries on walking, leaving Thornton behind to die, and his face hardens in sorrow as he sees the dead body of Iris.
Connelly is reunited with his wife and young daughter.