In October 1962, Lockheed U-2 aerial surveillance photos reveal that the Soviet Union is in the process of placing intermediate-range ballistic missiles carrying nuclear weapons in Cuba. President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) and his advisers must come up with a plan of action to prevent their activation. Kennedy is determined to show that the United States will not allow a missile threat. The Joint Chiefs of Staff advise immediate U.S. military strikes against the missile sites followed by an invasion of Cuba. However, Kennedy is reluctant to attack and invade because it would very likely cause the Soviets to invade Berlin, which could lead to an all-out war. Citing ''The Guns of August'', Kennedy sees an analogy to the events that started World War I, where the tactics of both sides' commanders had not evolved since the Franco-Prussian War and were obsolete, only this time nuclear weapons are involved. War appears to be almost inevitable.