The movie opens with Matthew Weston (Ryan Reynolds) working out his frustrations by hitting a boxing bag. The camera then pans to give us a panoramic view of Cape Town, South Africa. Ryan calls his mentor, CIA agent David Barlow (Brendan Gleeson) about an opening for a case officer position. Barlow says that there are 37 applicants with more experience than Weston, but that Barlow will take care of Weston. Weston greets his girlfriend Ana (Nora Arnezeder) and they both go to work. She is a doctor and he works as a CIA agent, whose cover is working for a NGO. He goes to through a storefront and gets retina-scanned, and a secret passageway leads him to an underground high tech safe house. His job is the “housekeeper” and the CIA is the “landlord.”
The movie cuts to a person (who we'll learn is Tobin Frost, played by Denzel Washington), saying on the phone, “You'll get the file but if the money is not there I'll find another buyer,” and then meeting with a MI-6 agent, Alec (Liam Cunningham). Alec gives him a box containing a microchip in a vial. He takes the vial, goes to the bathroom stall and takes out a stowed away box containing a gadget that examines the chip and authenticates it. With equipment from the stowed away box, he injects the microchip into his arm. Meanwhile, a bad guy tails him and enters the bathroom stall drawing a gun, but Tobin snaps the bad guy's neck. Tobin meets with a buyer who looks like Tobin. The buyer leaves and walks into the streets but is killed by a sniper. A kid runs up pretending to steal the dead person's wallet but shakes his head to the head bad guy, Vargas (Fares Fares). Tobin goes back to Alec who drives Tobin to safety while explaining that he wasn't responsible for the set up, but is killed by a shot to the head. The car crashes and the bad guys chase Tobin on foot. Seeing the U.S. Consulate, Tobin enters, surrendering himself, saying, “I am Tobin Frost.”
CIA agent Catherine Linklater (Vera Farmiga) gets a call and gives instruction to lock down the consulate and sends an extraction team to bring Tobin to the U.S.. She goes to a situation room with CIA head honcho Harlan Whitford (Sam Shepard) and Barlow. The tech people in the room bring up Tobin's file: He was one of the best field agents who cultivated a lot of sources, rewrote the book on interrogation, but went rogue 9 years ago and is wanted for selling secrets to China and Iran among others, and is responsible for deaths of many agents. She wonders what Tobin's agenda is, surrendering himself.
Weston is bored inside the safe house but gets a call about a last minute “reservation.” He sees on the computer screen that Tobin Frost is being brought in and arms himself. The extraction team, headed by Daniel Kiefer (Patrick Wilson) brings a hooded Tobin into an interrogation room and prepares him for waterboarding, telling Weston to cut the surveillance cameras. He tells Tobin that previously, an Al Qaeda terrorist lasted only 20 seconds. He wants to know Tobin's sources and what secrets he has been selling. They waterboard Tobin, who responds with, “How long was that?” An incredulous Weston looks on, asking, “Is this legal?”
While the interrogation is happening, the alarm sounds. The safe house is under attack, by Vargas and his henchmen. The extraction team leaves to defend the building but each member is cut down as Varga's men penetrate the safe house. Weston is left with Tobin and sees Vargas killing Kiefer. Tobin tells Weston that the “housekeeper” is responsible for the guest. Weston leaves the safe house with Tobin into the street and carjacks a BMW. He tells (the still handcuffed) Tobin to get into the trunk. The bad guys see them leaving and follow.
We have a Tony Scott-ish car chase scene (shaky camera, quick cuts): the bad guys shoot at Weston; Weston drives crazily but avoids accidents; Weston calls the CIA (Barlow actually) about the situation (to which Linklater tells him to not go to the consulate and stay off the grid and await further instructions); Tobin kicks through the back seat and wrestles with Weston. Weston loses the bad guys by driving into the opposite traffic, causing them to crash, and knocks out Tobin by crashing the car.
Tobin is now driving another car with Weston sitting in the backseat pointing the gun at him. Tobin asks, what's the protocol now, do you trust the landlord, because someone gave away that location. Weston says, don't try getting into my head but Tobin says I'm already in your head.
They hide in an empty apartment and Weston calls Barlow. Barlow instructs him to get resources stowed away in a locker at a soccer stadium (the Green Point stadium used in the World Cups). Weston calls his girlfriend and gives an excuse that the clinic has been hit with bomb threat that's why he couldn't come home. He also asks his girlfriend to look out the window to see if there are suspicious cars. There is: a police car is parked outside. He instructs her to stay with her girlfriend. Hearing this, Tobin asks, Does she know what you do? You can't expect to have a real relationship. She'll believe the lies because of people's desire to trust.
In the CIA situation room, Linklater tries to find ways to extract Tobin. She says they have no assets in Egypt, and concludes that Weston “is all we got.” They look over Weston's file: His parents died in an auto accident when he was young; he went to Yale; he was recruited out of Yale Law; he want to be a field agent and tested off the charts in spy craft.
Tobin drives to the stadium (with Weston sitting in the back with the gun). Tobin says to Weston that he can just walk away, but Weston retrieves a backpack in a locker. Inside the backpack is a GPS unit giving the location of another safe house. While exiting the stadium, Tobin causes a scene by raising his handcuffed hands (which were covered a jacket) and yelling that he has been kidnapped. Weston keeps shouting that he is a police officer but the stadium officers arrest both and lead Weston to the underground stadium police station and Tobin to the infirmary.
In the police station, the officers looking at the CCTV see that everyone in the infirmary is down. Weston sees Tobin leaving in a police officer uniform. The officers leave to go to the infirmary and Weston overpowers the lone remaining officer. He chases down Tobin, but the resulting crossfire of a shootout between Tobin and Weston catches a police officer trying to chase down Weston. Weston follows Tobin into a tunnel but Tobin gets the drop on him. Tobin points the gun at Weston's ear but shoots past it, saying, “I only kill professionals.”
In the CIA situation room, Linklater has traced the meeting between Tobin and the MI-6 agent. They investigate more and found out that the MI-6 agent has been investigated for trading intelligence. They also see that the diplomatic situation is South Africa is very bad, since two police officers were gunned down at the stadium (the news is being broadcasted). Barlow receives a call from Weston and Barlow instructs Weston, having lost Tobin, to go to the consulate for debrief the case is out of his hands and there is nothing that he can do. The CIA will take over. Before leaving for Cape Town, Linklater speculates to Barlow that by losing Tobin, Weston is either incompetent or working with Tobin.
Cut to Tobin in a room shaving his hair. He extracts the vial containing the microchip from his arm and puts it in a Ziploc bag. Meanwhile, Weston meets his girlfriend at a train terminal and spills the secret about his work. He gives her a ticket to Paris and tells her needs to go there for her safety. His girlfriend, tearful that everything’s a lie, asks, “Do you love me?” But before he answers, she says, “F you” and walks away. Weston is dejected but sees the sign for the township Langa on the train schedules and realizes that Tobin is going there, because when Tobin was driving to the stadium, Weston saw Tobin eyeing the road sign to Langa.
Weston goes to an Internet cafe and logs into the CIA server using his credentials. He looks for Tobin's known associates in Langa. His activity is tracked by the CIA, which relays the information to Barlow and Linklater.
Tobin goes to a residence in Langa, and head of the household, Carlos (Ruben Blades) welcomes Tobin. They drink wine and Carlos tells Tobin, “Some of us adapt, grow old, enjoy family... I thought you were dead. What brings you to my house after all these years?” Tobin gives Carlos the microchip, and Carlos analyzes it. The computer screen shows that the microchip contains information from various intelligence agencies around the world. Tobin asks Carlos for help getting out of the country and Carlos turns on a fake passport-making machine and gets to work. Meanwhile, inside the CIA Gulfstream jet, Linklater theorizes to Barlow that by not going into the consulate, Weston has been turned.
Meanwhile Vargas and the bad guys show up at Carlo's residence. They shoot up his wife and Carlos. Weston also shows up in a truck. There's now a roof foot chase scene, with people running on the tin roofs on the shanty houses. Tobin and a bad guy crashes from the roof into a room and engage in close quarter combat with handguns. They get each other to drop the guns and wrestle, trying to gauge out each other's eyes. Weston and another bad guy also fight mano a mano -- this one involves knives. The bad guy has a knife but Weston doesn't. In the end, they both get to a dropped gun and shoot their respective bad guys. Before Weston's adversary dies, Weston asks repeatedly, who are you working for. The bad guys croaks out 'CIA' before he dies. Tobin is injured in the fight.
Tobin and Weston are holed up in a closed pharmacy in which Weston patches Tobin up. Weston asks why Tobin went rogue and Tobin says that it's because of the lies one of their targets was a guy who was going to testify in a congressional hearing about wet works. Tobin didn't quit right away, but eventually left. Weston says he's still going to take Tobin in and Tobin says, good for you.
Linklater is investigating the scene in Langa and upon hearing how Weston and Tobin went away together, is convinced that they are working together. Weston and Tobin arrive at a safe house in the countryside. After handcuffing Tobin to a pipe, Weston, not trusting anyone, points the guns at the housekeeper and asks him to call it in. The call is relayed to Barlow. Switch to a scene in which Linklater catches up to Barlow in her SUV. They stop at the side of the country road (leading to the safe house.) She gets out of her SUV and tells Barlow that according to her sources, the MI-6 agent sold a microchip, so that's what they're going to look for. Upon hearing his, Barlow shoots Linklater dead.
Weston and the housekeeper are sitting in the kitchen. Weston gets up to get coffee and the housekeeper's cell phone vibrates with a message. The next thing Weston knows, the housekeeper pulls a kitchen knife on Weston. They fight and both fall out of the window onto the ground. The housekeeper grabs a shard of the window glass and straddling Weston, tries to shove the glass into his throat, but Weston directs it into Weston's stomach. Weston stabs the housekeeper's thigh. They both fought some more. Eventually Weston gets the upper hand and strangles the housekeeper from behind. He breaks the housekeeper's neck in front of Tobin. Seriously injured, Weston asks Tobin, why do people want to kill for the data? Tobin is released and walks away with the microchip.
Weston wakes up in a bed having been patched up by Barlow. Barlow tells him that he did a good job and says about the data, suppose someone watches you all the time and compiles all your mistakes, what would you do. The main bad guy, Vargas, then shows up at the doorframe. They suddenly hear a junior henchmen say, “Boss, he's here!” It's Tobin, blowing Vargas and the junior henchmen away. Barlow runs outside but a car explodes, presumably knocking him out. Tobin sees Weston in bed and tells him, let's go, but is shot by Barlow. Barlow tells Weston, “We got him!” but Weston shoots Barlow dead. Weston sees Tobin slump against the wall and as Tobin dies, he mumbles some profundities and gives Weston the microchip.
In the office, the CIA head honcho Whitford is reading Weston's report. He says that they'll have to finesse the ending, and that for national security, they'll have to excise some details, such as how Barlow is the turncoat agent who leaked the safe house location. Seeing that Weston is uncomfortable, Whitford says he'll promotes Weston to senior case officer. But Whitford says that there were no mentions of the secret data in the report. Where is it, he asks. Weston says he knows nothing about it and he was just doing his job of safe-housing Tobin. Tobin never told him anything about any files. Whitford warns, if the file leaks that person leaking it would be made enemies, but Weston leaves, saying, “Thanks, I'll take it from here.”
Outside the building, Weston presses a button of an app on his smartphone, and it is assumed that the app leaks the file wiki-leak style. We see a montage of news footages: CNN says the world is taken surprise by a leaked file incriminating the highest officials of the intelligence communities; the British Parliament indicts rogue MI-6 officers; FBI officers arrest Whitford. CNN asks, “Just how high up will the corruption reach?”
The last scene is of Weston at a cafe in Paris. He is spying on his old girlfriend who is among a group of friends. She sees him and smiles, and he walks away.
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