Nick Falzone (John Cusack) is a control freak. An air traffic control freak. He "pushes tin" at New York's Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) center. Part catacomb, part frat house, TRACON is the chaotic air traffic facility on Long Island that handles up to 7,000 flights a day into and out of the finite airspace above Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports. Nick works the Newark radar scopes, the busiest of them all, and he is the best of the best. If you don't believe it, just ask him. That is, until Russell Bell (Billy Bob Thornton) comes to town. After stints in Albuquerque, Phoenix and Denver, Russell - a cross between a motorcycle-riding cowboy and a Zen master - has come to New York looking for heavier traffic. This is the same guy who once stood in the turbulence wake of a departing 747 just to see what it felt like. Call him crazy - he'll take it as a compliment.
Fueled by caffeine and machismo, a rivalry ensues between Nick and Russell. The one-upmanship becomes a contest of wits and wills, where stress is the great equalizer and bravado is the lowest common denominator, a game where the winner - not the loser - could lose it all - his job, his marriage, his mind.