A homeless man is shot to death in a dark Georgetown alley. Miles away, a beautiful young congressional staffer dies beneath the screeching wheels of a speeding subway train. Are they isolated, unrelated tragedies, or just two slivers of a massive conspiracy involving the highest echelons of government?
Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck, continuing to do a fine job redeeming himself for pretty much all of this decade's work) is a rising star. Astute, handsome and politically connected, he is the undisputed future of his party. But when his research assistant dies under questionable circumstances and he confesses to having had an illicit affair with her, Collins' political fortunes are called into question.
Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe with a gut as large as his hair is long) has been around the block a few times. A seasoned, no-nonsense reporter for The Washington Globe, Cal begins investigating the shooting of a homeless purse snatcher before coming to the conclusion that his death is far from random. When the man's murder becomes irrevocably linked to the mistress of Congressman Collins—once Cal's college roommate and best friend—he realizes there is much more going on than meets the eye.
Trying desperately (and not always successfully) to be both friend and reporter, Cal ignores the obvious conflict of interest and enlists the help of hungry, rookie blogger Della Frye (Rachel McAdams). Together, with their battleaxe of an editor (Helen Mirren) looking on apprehensively, the two intrepid reporters begin digging into the story, frequently endangering their own lives in the process. But the problem with digging is that you often end up uncovering things that were never meant to see the light of day. And you ...