Duration: 115 min
Elena McMahon (Anne Hathaway) is a journalist reporting out of the Atlantic Post's Central American bureau in El Salvador who is forced to flee during the civil war. During her coverage, she wonders how so many arms and guns found their way into El Salvador. Who was profiting from the war and why? A few years later she's pushing to reopen the bureau, but her editor reveals that Congress is secretly pressuring the paper to dial back their coverage of Central and South American affairs (Elena had been asking questions about the CIA laying mines around Nicaraguan ports to block their trade. The Contras are the rebel group in Nicaragua and there is speculation that the Reagan administration is supporting them, even though the Congress has prohibited funding them explicitly), so reopening the bureau isn't an option. Elena is angry as she had tracked the bullet casings from El Salvador to Missourie. She was close to a breakthrough on the story. Instead, he reassigns Elena to cover Ronald Reagan's re-election campaign in 1984.Elena reluctantly agrees to meet with her absentee father, Dick (Willem Dafoe). She deduces that he's still involved in trafficking illegal contraband, but also realizes that he is suffering from dementia. She embarks on Reagan's campaign trail. In Cincinnati, she uses her acquaintance with Helena Shultz to get a seat at the table of her husband, Secretary of State George Shultz (she had earlier questioned Shultz on the mines around Nicaraguan ports) during Helena's birthday party. She attempts to question him but he stonewalls her until a staffer intervenes. Secretary Shultz meets with Ambassador-at-Large Treat Morrison (Ben Affleck), who has been looking into Elena's background since her original encounter with Shultz. Morrison is in favor of letting Elena report on Nicaragua, as her coverage justifies military intervention in the country.In Houston she meets with General Gus Sharp who had previously identified American shell casings in El Salvador as coming from a stockpile in Missouri. She shows him surveillance photos of shipping containers, which Sharp identifies as surplus arms from various National Guard units, including the 20th Special Forces. Arms travel to Florida and from there to all countries close to Nicaragua and from there into Nicaragua itself. Elena again takes her story to the editor that the US administration is arming the rebels in Nicaragua against the Government. Her editor wont budge on publishing her story.Elena receives a call that Dick has been hospitalized. She hands off her assignment to her friend Alma (Rosie Perez) and goes to Florida to take care of him. Dick begs her to meet his business associate, Sedlow (Mel Rodriguez), for an important deal that he has setup (he says that the deal has been put up on credit, as he is supposed to get paid $ 1 MM in traveler's checks on delivery. Half of it has to go to the loan sharks. So he needs to pay $500K to the sharks, whether he delivers the guns or not). She reluctantly agrees to effectively become an arms dealer, allowing her to investigate the story from the inside. Sedlow gives her specific instructions for how to deliver a large arms shipment to Costa Rica. She is to receive payment in traveler's checks, but upon arriving in Costa Rica the buyer, Jones (Edi Gathegi), shorts her, also paying in cocaine. When the cargo pilot she flew in with leaves without her, Jones drives her to San Jose. She seizes an opportunity to take his gun and vehicle, driving herself the rest of the way. Elena calls Alma from San Jose, and wants to know about MAx Epperson (a named that Dick gave her for when she got in trouble). Alma says she couldn't find anything on Max, but a guy named Bob Weir kept coming up during her South America investigations. They both think Bob Weir is CIA. She checks into a hotel room, where Sedlow calls, having tracker her down. Elena threatens him to get her out, as she knows that the payment was in drugs and not checks, as promised. The morning, she gets her flight ticket under the door. When leaving Costa Rica she discovers the passport she was given has the name Elise Meyer. She manages to depart, narrowly avoiding trouble when her cab driver is stopped by security with her bag (she had left the bag in the taxi and the cab driver brought it her when she was at immigration counter) containing the cocaine and gun; the bag has her father's male name on it, so the cab driver is arrested.Elena ends up in Antigua, where she learns that her father has passed away. She attempts to enter the American embassy so she can get a proper passport, but it is the 4th of July, and nobody is available. Dejected, she returns to her hotel, where Morrison arrives, who hides his true agenda. Morrison knows that with a fake passport Elena has no way back home. She admits that she came on a ghost plane and she didn't get paid either. She came for her father and stayed for the story. After some mild verbal sparring, Elena sleeps with Morrison. She confesses to him who her father is and what she has been doing for him in Central America, believing that her focus on this story was motivated by the fact that she's losing her connection to her daughter, Cat (Onata Aprile), who's enrolled in a boarding school, and her work will be all she has. She says she thought Morrison was the man sent by Washington to kill her.The next day, Elena is by the hotel pool when Jones arrives and rescues her from an attack by gunmen. He escorts her to safety and explains to her that the deal her father was offered was fake, meant to lure Dick out of hiding. He argues that Elena coming instead of Dick was a mistake and US is still trying to figure out how to close the file on her. Elena talks to Alma and realizes that Jone is French intelligence (Alma told her that there was a French operative down there) and the attack on the hotel was staged to originally kill Dick, but Elena showed up instead. Elena walls Morrison, who puts her in touch with Paul Schuster (Toby Jones), who gives her a place to stay while things get sorted out. Elena uses this time to hides all her notes and materials in Paul's house. One night Elena sees a mysterious person meet Paul and she recognizes this man as Dick's business partner Max Epperson, and suspects that Max is also the CIA under cover man Bob Weir. Bob is known as the one who ties lose ends. After several days at Paul's, Morrison reaches out and lays out a plan to get her home, where she can break the story on the arms deals. The next day, a shooter arrives at Paul's, killing him and his staff before calling out to Elena. She turns around to see Morrison, who fatally shoots her. It is shown that Jones arrives and finds Elena's materials, which he takes with him.Morrison gives official testimony claiming he shot in self-defense. Meanwhile, Jones issues an official report to his superiors in French Intelligence revealing he had been trying to protect Elena. Finally, Alma uses all of the notes and information gathered by Elena to posthumously publish the story of the Iran-Contra Affair. US sold arms to Iran, to fund the Contras, in contravention to the laws of Congress.