Looking for a way out of their mundane government jobs, Austin Millbarge (Dan Aykroyd) and Emmett Fitz-Hume (Chevy Chase) take the entrance exam for a CIA espionage program. Immediately chosen to take part in a top-secret mission in the Middle East by the officious Gen. Sline (Steve Forrest), the new recruits are set upon by Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Soon it becomes clear that the hapless pair are being used as decoys to expose the Russians for a Cold War nuclear showdown.
Deirdre (Natascha McElhone) puts together a team of experts that she tasks with stealing a valuable briefcase, the contents of which are a mystery. The international team includes Sam (Robert De Niro), an ex-intelligence officer, along with Vincent (Jean Reno), Gregor (Stellan Skarsgard) and others. As their operation gets underway, several team members are found to be untrustworthy, and everyone must complete the mission with a watchful eye on everyone else.