Miguel follows him below, screaming at him. Russell, flying recklessly, looks down at Miguel not understanding. By the time he looks back he sees a line of trees at the edge of the field, nearly on top of him. In a trick move, Russell turns the plane on its side, and slices through the narrow gap between the trees. Miguel screams with delight at his prowess. Miguel looks pissed.
Moments later, Miguel races over, skidding to a halt next to the landed Bi-wing plane. Miguel berates him for spraying the wrong field. Pissed, Miguel peels away, kicking gravel back at Russell. Pathetically, he reaches into his jacket and pulls out a bottle of Jack Daniels. He takes a healthy swig.
Rolling over us, the immense under-belly of this enormous craft obliterates our view. Suddenly the bottom begins to segment. Dozens of large sections begins to disengage, extracting themselves, twisting away from the larger bilge. The separated segments themselves are enormous. Slowly they twist downwards on a course to the blue planet below . . . Earth.
White House corridors: Under a barrage of questions from her own staff, Constance hurries down the corridor. Even NASA is bugging them, but she tells them have no official position on the matter. She escapes into the elevator as they continue prodding her.
In the Oval Office, the President, General Grey, the Secretary of Defense and White House Chief of Staff Albert Nimziki are gathered around the couch. They discuss the possibility of blowing it out of the sky with ICBMs, but that would turn one dangerous falling object into many. Just then the door opens and Constance enters, reporting the press is making up their own stories at this point.
Nimziki is pushing for them to go to DEFCON 3, but other argue that they are two days away from the fourth of July and over fifty percent of their armed forces on weekend leave. They go quiet as Commanding Officer from Space Command dashes into the room. The officer reports their intelligence tells them the object has settled into a stationary orbit.
An assistant lays out a laptop suitcase displaying visual readouts of the object. Everyone gathers around. Part of it has broken off into nearly three dozen other pieces, over fifteen miles in width themselves. They should be entering the atmosphere within the next twenty-five minutes. The room is silenced. All eyes turn to the President as he calls for the escalation of DEFCON 3.
Yellow lights flash on as an alarm quickly buzzes. David leans into frame and opens the door to the microwave. In David's office, he retrieves his home-make cup-a-soup. We see this office, it clearly has the David touch; ecology posters, plants, tons of computers and electronic gizmos.
Marty enters, looking over David's shoulder as he eats. David tells him he found the problem and it's not their equipment. There's some weird signal embedded within the satellite feed. David thinks he can isolate it and block it, Marty is pleased that they will be the only company in town with a clear picture.
Norther Desert, Iraq: A tent city. Ubiquitous overcrowding and poverty. Several refugees settle down for the night. Suddenly a group of shouting screaming tribes people come rushing past. They see the skies - the phenomenon. Creeping from across the horizon above the rocky mountain terrain, a wide fireball high in the sky, flaring and exploding. A terrifying sight.
USS Georgia SSBN, Persian Gulf: The Admiral enters the Radar Room, a sailor reports they have a total radar black out over a thirteen kilometer area. The entire upper portion of the screen is blank. And the blank area is moving. The sailor diverts the Lieutenant's attention to another screen. A bright sea of red light bleeds off the map. The Admiral requests Atlantic Command on the line.
Trailer Park: Dogs bark and people stumble out of their trailers as an enormous shadow creeps over them. In the Casse mobile home, the windows grow dark and the room begins to rumble. Miguel rushes to the door, ushering his siblings out.
Alicia and Troy step out the door, stopping dead in their tracks. Miguel follows them only to look up and see . . . the Phenomenon - dark clouds, the flames are burning out, replaced by huge plumes of dark smoke billowing around the edges of the phenomena. Only small traces of extinguishing flames illuminate it.
David Levinson, an MIT-graduate working for a cable company in New York City, discovers hidden satellite transmissions which he believes is a timer counting down to a coordinated attack by the aliens.
With the help of his ex-wife Constance Spano, a White House staffer, David and his father Julius gain entrance into the Oval Office to warn President Thomas J. Whitmore of the impending attack.
The President immediately orders large-scale evacuations of the targeted U.S. cities, but the aliens attack with advanced directed energy weapons before the evacuations could be completed.
The President, his young daughter, portions of his staff, Constance and the Levinsons narrowly escape aboard Air Force One as a destroyer lays waste to Washington D.C.
On July 3, the United States conducts a coordinated counterattack; the movie follows the Black Knights, a squadron of Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets from El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, as they participate in an assault on the destroyer that has devastated the city of Los Angeles.
Their weapons fail to penetrate the craft's force field, and it responds by releasing scores of smaller "attacker" ships which are similarly shielded and armed with high-energy torpedos.
One-sided dogfights ensue. Captain Steven Hiller manages to evade the guns of the attacker ships and lures a single attacker to the Grand Canyon. There, as his jet is about out of fuel and the attacker is about to overtake him, he deploys the landing chute for his jet and it drapes across the alien craft, temporarily disorienting the pilot. Captain Hiller then ejects from his jet.
The alien crash lands in the desert and Captain Hiller parachutes to a landing close by. He then angrily marches over to find and confront whatever life form it is he might encounter. The door to the alien fighter craft pops open and a very bizarre looking creature with many tentacles appears. Captain Hiller delivers a right cross and knocks the creature out. Captain Hiller says, Now thats what I call a close encounter.
As Hiller is using his parachute to drag the body of the alien across the desert, he is picked up by Russell Casse, who is traveling across the desert with a group of refugees in a convoy of RVs.
From there they take the captured alien to Area 51, commanded by Major Mitchell. Area 51 also happens to be where the President and his remaining staff have landed.
Area 51 conceals a top secret facility housing a repaired attacker ship and three dead alien bodies. Attempts have been underway since the late 1960s to repair the attacker ship.
Upon arrival of the alien Mother Ship, the controls for the attacker have become activated. When lead scientist Dr. Brackish Okun removes an outer "bio-mechanical" suit from the alien, the living being inside is revealed.
The creature kills Dr. Okun and the examining crew, and because it has no vocal cords, it makes use of Dr. Okun's voice box to communicate with President Whitmore, who is outside the glass windows of the operating room.
Its first words are "Release me." President Whitmore poses a question to the alien: "Can't we live in peace?" The creature says "No." When the President asks the creature what it wants them to do, it responds, "Die."