While doing his latest piece, cynical American travel writer Pete McKell (Michael Vartan) joins a group of tourists on a river cruise in the Australian Outback. He is immediately drawn to the feisty female tour captain Kate Ryan (Radha Mitchell), though she seems to regard him as a bit of a yuppie. After a run-in with two of the locals, Neil (Sam Worthington) and Colin, the cruise winds to a close, and Kate prepares to take the group back to shore.
When one of the passengers suddenly sees a flare shoot up into the sky, Kate believes it came from another tour boat up river, and persuades the group that they must go and offer assistance. A few miles up river, they come across the sinking remains of a dinghy, but no survivors. When something crashes into the bottom of the boat, causing water to gush in through a leak, Kate has no choice but to head for the nearest land - a small island in the middle of the river. As the group bickers about how they're going to get home, one of the tourists is suddenly pulled into the water by an unseen predator. With darkness approaching, everyone soon comes to the realisation that so is the tide. In a matter of hours, they'll be completely submerged.
Help seemingly comes in the form of Neil and Colin, who drive by again in their dinghy. But everyone's hopes are quickly dashed, when their boat is almost hit and sunk by whatever it is lurking in the murky waters. Neil manages to scramble ashore, but Colin is dragged underwater.
As night falls, Neil comes up with a plan to swim silently across the river to the shore, and tie a rope to one of the trees, creating a zip line for everyone to use to escape to safety. At first, the plan seems to be working, but when one of the group freezes up half way across the river, and panic causes another two to take off across as well, the rope can't take the extra load and breaks. While trying to re-secure the rope, Neil is attacked and quickly devoured by the creature. The three tourists in the water scurry back to the island. As the last of them reaches the island, the creature suddenly shows itself - a gigantic crocodile that devours one of the group.
Later that night, with the tide continuing to rise, Pete has an idea - distract the croc with bait on one side of the island, while everyone escapes off the other. Hooking two dead birds to the boat's anchor, the croc is soon attracted. Pete stays with the bait, pulling on the rope to make it seem alive. While the croc rips into the anchor, the rest of the group make a break for the shore. Everyone but Kate is across when the croc suddenly releases the hook and heads for the other side of the island. Despite Pete's cries for her to hurry, the croc seizes her in its massive jaws and drags her underwater. Pete hurries across the river with Kate's pet dog in tow, and heads off into the bush to meet up with the others. As day breaks, Pete inadvertently stumbles across the croc's lair while looking for Kate's dog, which ran off after gettig across the river. To his surprise, Kate is still alive in there, though badly injured. While attempting to carry her out, the croc returns, eats Kate's dog, then falls asleep. Soon, Pete accidentally wakes the beast while making his escape, and it makes several attempts to devour both him, and Kate. Finally, after having three fingers bitten off, and being tossed around the cave like a ragdoll, Pete makes one last attempt to kill the croc. When it lunges for him, he manages to impale it through the head with a large, sharpened log.
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