A structural engineer (Anthony Hopkins) and an ambitious young district attorney (Ryan Gosling) become locked in a deadly battle of wits when the former is found innocent in the attempted murder of his wife in director Gregory Hoblit's tense tale of courtroom mind games. Ted Crawford (Hopkins) is an engineer who lives with his wife, Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz), in the couple's lavish Southern California home. One day, after carefully planning out the details to ensure that there is no way he can be convicted of murder, Ted shoots his wife in a blatant attempt to kill the woman. When head hostage negotiator Rob Nunally (Billy Burke) arrives on the scene to speak with Ted, he is shocked to find that the victim of the shooting is in fact his longtime lover. Though Jennifer survives the trauma of being shot in the head at close range, she hovers comatose between life and death as star prosecutor Willy Beachum (Gosling) reluctantly accepts the case while preparing to leave the Los Angeles criminal court system behind for a more promising career at a posh private law firm. Though the DA (David Strathairn) vehemently resents Beachum's lofty plan for departure, the hotshot young lawyer remains convinced that he can expedite the apparently open-and-shut case and be on his way to greener pastures in one week's time at the very most. Beachum's swelling ego betrays him, however, as his future boss Nikki Gardner (Rosamund Pike) begins to turn up the heat and fracture mechanics specialist Ted chooses to represent himself at the trial knowing well that a career spent spotting structural flaws in aeronautical systems has instilled him with just the kind of argumentative skills needed to riddle the swaggering young lawyer's "foolproof" case with doubt.