The credits roll with John Brennan (Russel Crowe) driving a Prius. He has a passenger who is making moaning sounds about how he can't breathe. Suddenly, the guy stops moaning.
Titles say "Last three years." John and Lara Brennan (Elizabeth Banks), and his brother Mick (Michael Buie) and wife Erit (Moran Atias) are out to dinner and it is not going well. Erit and Lara are fighting over whether it's a good idea for women to work for other women and it turns into a real nasty verbal cat fight. Lara has just had a big fight with her boss. John and Lara head home, relieve the sitter, and make out. Next morning, she injects herself with insulin. As she's getting ready, she notices a spot on her rain jacket and is washing it out in the sink - just as she realizes that it's blood, the police storm in and arrest her for the murder of her boss. Their 3 year old son Luke (Tyler & Toby Green) is bawling.
Three years later, John is a community college teacher who is teaching English. He tries to manage his job and raising Luke (now 7 and played by Tyler Simpkins). Lara is in the Alleghaney County jail (Pittsburgh, PA), having been convicted of the murder. Her case is on appeal. She's allowed contact visits and he brings Luke to the jail. Lara's story is that she physically bumped into someone in the parking garage at her work who must have been the actual killer. She heard a button pop.
Lara's lawyer (Daniel Stern) tells John that all hope is lost. John tells Lara. She attempts suicide. During the next three months, he resolves to spring her out and leave the country and starts to make a plan.
He gets library books about prison life and how to escape. He meets with Damon Pennington (Liam Neeson), an ex-con who gives him some tips. He has 15 minutes to get out of the centre of the city and 35 minutes to get out of the metro region, in this case, Pittsburgh. He will need three passports, a social security card that will pass a credit check and driver's licenses. He will also need money to live off because without money he will have no friends. He needs a foreign getaway such as Yemen, with poor relations with the USA. Penningtion tells him to look for ways to break the jail routines. Pennington also says that if he does this, he must decide that he is a guy who is willing to shoot a guard and run over a lady with a stroller, and if he's not, then don't start because he'll just get someone hurt.
He starts scouting, scoping the jail, the routine, taking pictures, making maps, planning.
John buys oxy-contin from street dealers and asks them about fake IDs. One dealer directs him to a noisy bar to see another guy, but he gets beaten and robbed.
While he's at the park with Luke, he meets Nicole (Olivia Wilde), a divorced woman with a girl about Luke's age.
He sees a video on the Internet about how to make a bump key. He tries to make a bump key, but it gets jammed when he tries to use it in a practice run on the jail elevator. He tries to move it, but the key breaks off in the lock. The jail sergeant interrogates him, he denies being by the elevator (the surveilance video was not clear). He vomits when he walks out of the jail. The cops who investigated his wife (Aisha Hinds and Jason Beghe) see him throw up and go visit him at his house, but he doesn't answer the door. John puts the house on the market.
He often leaves Luke with his parents (Hellen Carey and Bryan Dennehy) over the weekend. John is upset his mother doesn't seem to believe Lara is innocent.
While scouting, he notices a medical van visit the jail. He reads on the Internet how you can use a tennis ball with a hole in it to open a car door. While the driver is in inside a building, he breaks into the vehicle, photos a copy of Lara's blood work. At home he photoshops the blood work report so that Lara's glucose level looks dangerously high.
A deaf guy (Zachary Sondrini) who was in the bar where he got jumped tells John that he read his lips and that he'll make the IDs for a fee. He gets the IDs from him, but the deaf guy warns him that he wants it too much after John doesn't follow his instructions regarding their meeting.
John buys a gun.
Luke and John see Nicole and her daughter at a park again and they invite Luke to the daughter's 7th birthday party. John admits his wife is in jail for murder.
Suddenly, Lara is being moved to prison in three days.
John's dad can tell that something is up and sees plane tickets and passports among his papers. He shakes his hand and gives him a hug, implying that he knows what he's up to and that he has his blessing.
John only has a couple of grand. He can't get the house to close any faster. He parks near a bank and puts on a baseball hat and sunglasses. The bank guard opens the door for a lady with a stroller and he chickens out, backs out without looking and almost hits a mom and her child. He decides to follow a drug dealer and tails the bright red Challenger. He charges the meth lab house with his gun and tries to find out where the money stash is. He shoots the leader in the arm to show he means business and sets the house on fire with alcohol. The leader claims his kid is upstairs and dashes off, John follows warily. After a short gunfight the leader is dead and the street dealer is badly wounded. John finds an open safe of cash and fills a duffel bag. He starts to leave, but the dealer begs him not to let him die here. Backing out John breaks his tail lamp lens. Back to the scene from the credits. John leaves the dealer's body on a transit bench.
In the morning John and Luke pack up. John tears down his planning wall collage and puts one garbage bag in the neighbor's bin, the other down the street. John breaks into the medical van with Luke in the car, swaps Lara's blood work results, cuts the phone lines at the lab. John then drops Luke two hours early at the birthday party, says he needs to run some errands. He tells Nicole that Luke's grandparents' phone number is in his jacket, in case John is late.
At the hospital a doctor sees the lab report and tries to call the lab for confirmation, but they get a busy signal. They decide to transport Lara to a hospital asap.
Lieutenant Nabulsi is supervising the detectives who investigated the murder for which Lara was convicted and also the murders of the drug dealer. They view the charred meth lab house. The cops find the broken tail lamp lens. Six Priuses are registered to felons including a murderer and a rapist. Murderer is incarcerated. Rapist is out. Rapist is in a wheel chair. Check the murderer - does she have a husband or child of driving age? Yes - it's Lara's car and guess what? She just got transported to the hospital.
Nabulsi has his officers call the escort. They say everything is secure. But, Nabulsi runs to the hospital anyway. Then John bursts in with a gun, gets everyone in the room tied up, gets Lara to put on civilian clothes (several layers). She is not a happy camper. Tries to talk him out of it. He threatens her that she needs to call Luke and tell him not to expect her he's waiting for her. Then she's with him. They walk quickly through the hospital, first with white lab coats, which they ditch to try to throw the cops off their trail. They come face to face with Nabulsi but manage to escape in the eleavtor. They change clothes several times. They blend in with the crowd, but Nabulsi is on their tail. They board a commuter train. Nabulsi just misses them and chases the train on foot and tries to get it stopped. John stops the train with the eestop. He and Lara jump off. He had previously cut a hole in a chain link fence. They hop into a Chevy Traverse SUV that he has rented earlier and parked there. They just get over the bridge before the police get it blocked off.
They drive to the party to pick Luke up. Luke's not there, Nicole has taken all the kids to the zoo. They'll be back in an hour. They start to drive to the zoo. They're running out of time on the 35 minute window. At the last second, he ditches the zoo plan and enters an interstate. He explains about road blocks and that they will come back for Luke somehow later. Lara opens the car door, apparently attempting suicide and lets herself fall. John grabs her and manages to control the spinning SUV. After a reconcilatory pause they drive off, take the next exit and head to the zoo. John finds Luke without any trouble in the aquarium room at the zoo. Nicole sees Lara in the vehicle, the family get in the SUV and drive to a train station.
Nabulsi tells his chief on the phone that he's sorry the Mayor was delayed in a roadblock, he had only ordered his cops to stop couples with a kid not every car. When John approaches a toll booth road block they are waved through, it turns out that they had picked up an elderly couple.
Nabulsi's detectives find John's garbage and are trying to piece together the plan he had mounted on a wall. They think they have figured out that they are headed to Haiti. The family drops off the seniors in Buffalo and go through airport security with the fake passports, John is trembling nervously so Lara takes charge, they manage to get on the plane.
The police interrogate John's father but he claims ignorance and says he never talked with his son.
Later, at the parking garage murder scene, Detective Quinn ponders and imagines how the murder could have occurred with Lara's story. A junkie mugger slammed a fire extinguisher into Lara's boss's head. As Lara walked to her adjacent car, she physically bumps into the mugger. Lara picks up the fire extinguisher because it is blocking her car but can't see the body on the far side of her car. She leaves the parking garage. A man sees her leave and the boss's body. It was raining that night, and it's raining tonight too. The male detective drops a piece of paper to see where the button would have gone (off of the junkie's jacket Lara said she heard a button pop). It ends up in a catch basin by the curb. The detectives lift the grate off but don't see a button, but it's there. The cops decide to drop it and return to regular work.
At his home, John's father opens an atlas and flips to the Caribbean coast of South America, he smiles.
John, Lara, and Luke are in a hotel room in Venezuela. Luke has finally kissed his mom goodnight again as Lara and Luke sleep blissfully on the bed and John takes a picture.