Angry and depressed over losing his job, accountant Terry Allen begins to suspect his new neighbor, a single Islamic grad student with a penchant for unexplained late night activities, is at the center of a terrorist conspiracy. Although both Terry’s wife and the FBI agent to whom he reports his suspicions are skeptical about his fears, Terry becomes increasingly obsessed with uncovering the man’s true identity. Convinced he’s all that stands between this Middle-Eastern stranger and a deadly terror attack, Terry finally decides to take matters into his own hands – with shocking results.
A tense psychological thriller in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Civic Duty takes a controversial look at fear and prejudice in the highly charged atmosphere of post-9/11 America. Set during a unique and frightening moment in U.S. history, as the nation grappled with setting the proper balance between personal freedom and enhanced security, Civic Duty challenges viewers to examine their own preconceptions about tolerance and terror.
After accountant Terry Allen (Peter Krause) is laid off from his most recent job, he finds himself whiling away the hours watching round-the-clock news reports about on America’s “War on Terror.” Soon he begins to notice unusual goings-on in an apartment across the courtyard where the new tenant, Gabe Hassan (Khaled Abol Naga), is hosting late night gatherings for other young, apparently Middle Eastern men and surreptitiously taking out his trash in the wee hours of the morning. Reinforced by the endless TV images and sound bites about threat levels and terrorist plots, Terry begins to believe he has uncovered a sleeper cell in his own backyard.
When he confides his suspicions to his wife Marla (Kari Matchett), she brushes them aside saying he should focus his energies on finding a job so they can get a mortgage on the house they’re hoping to buy. But as his employment opportunities evaporate, Terry begins stalking Gabe and going through his garbage to gather evidence to bolster his conspiracy theory. He goes as far as to report his findings to an FBI agent (Richard Schiff), who appears not to take his contentions seriously.
As Terry’s obsession with Gabe spins further out of control it eventually drives Marla out of their home. Convinced of the growing danger posed by his neighbor, Terry enters Gabe’s empty apartment only to find unfamiliar laboratory equipment in the kitchen. He also discovers an inexplicable cache of ATM deposit envelopes and financial records indicating Gabe is receiving monthly payments from an Islamic group.
Positive that a dangerous plot is about to be carried out, Terry confronts Gabe at gunpoint and demands to know who he is working for. While Gabe has a plausible explanation for each of his interrogator’s questions, the answers just don’t add up for Terry. When a SWAT team surrounds the apartment forcing a dangerous standoff, Terry realizes time is running out and he must determine if his actions are being driven by patriotism or paranoia.