An American and a Russian find themselves fighting a literal cold war as they struggle to survive in the arctic in this action-adventure. Royce (Sam Waterston) is an American meteorologist who is on a flight mission with the Royal Air Force when the crew spots what appears to be a wrecked Russian plane stranded on the Arctic wastes. A lone survivor can be seen from the air, and while the crew are unable to stop to rescue him, Royce, an outgoing and optimistic sort, volunteers to bail out with supplies and tend to the wounded man until help can arrive. But the Russian, Averyanov (Alexander Potapov), is a cynical if darkly witty man, who is convinced that it is his destiny to die amidst the ice and snow. Royce will have none of Averyanov's pessimism and turns the fuselage of the wrecked plane into a warm shelter. But as fuel and food run low and a heater begins leaking poison gas into their shanty, it becomes increasingly obvious that help is not on the way any time soon. Royce tries to formulate a plan that will lead the two men to safety, while a grateful but realistic Averyanov urges Royce to let him die and use his flagging energies to save himself. A Captive in the Land was dedicated to veteran screenwriter Lee Gold; this was his final film.