Pros: Brilliant acting by Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn
Cons: The story did not flow consistently
It was just about Ten PM on Saturday night as I checked with the TV guide station to find a movie to watch. I found said flick on American Movie Classics (AMC), directed by John Schlesinger from 1984 based on a true story from the mid 1970s, The Falcon and the Snowman.
The story centers on Chris Boyce played by Timothy Hutton who at first lives at home with his parents and siblings. His father is ex FBI, meaning once FBI always FBI. Pat Hingle and Joyce Van Patten are the parents with Sean Penn playing the role of Daulton Lee, his long time friend from when they were altar boys. Chris has dropped out of seminary school and plans to continue schooling eventually in the field of law.
His father tosses him ten dollars for a hair cut one day and Chris starts out at some agency pushing the mail cart until he goes through security clearance to work as a low-level clerk in a top secret room that even security cannot get into. I believe it is called RPX and he works with Eddie and Julie. Hidden in cabinets they keep booze to make their drinks in the shredder machines and play games all day long while the machines in the room type up messages they must send off and shred or put codes in large notebooks.
One day Chris decides to look at the messages and does not like what the government is doing and how they communicate with other countries. He looks around old newspaper clippings and goes to see his buddy Daulton to discuss his findings. The main interest for Daulton is drugs as he deals in cocaine and heroin plus uses them regularly. Chris has an idea for him and Daulton to infiltrate the messages to other countries but Daulton is too patriotic at this point.
There is a drug meeting that goes bust for Daulton and he learns he will spend his prison time at San Quentin unless he becomes a snitch. He recalls the plan with Chris and asks to get out on bail. The next day Daulton and Chris set their plan in motion since Daulton is running from the law. He heads to Mexico City and goes straight to the embassy with some notes to sell secrets to the Soviets.
Daulton does not reveal his source but mentions he has a friend in the US that works with classified information that will be re-routed to him and once a month on a Monday or Tuesday Daulton will bring these documents for set prices. Daulton is feeding off the rush of the exchanges and likes the money aspect but shoots his mouth off once he has been doped up which worries Chris. Daulton also shares his money with his family telling them he will build them a house in Costa Rica and uses the spy camera at a party taking pictures of girls. It seems the only reason Chris is doing this is to go against the grain of what his father stands for.
Later in the movie it is revealed that Chris is a Democrat while Daulton is a Republican. Both guys screw up and risk serious implications when they cross the line due to the drugs that Daulton is taking and Chris wanting to teach him the seriousness of the work they are doing. They both become paranoid either due to the drugs for Daulton or for Chris thinking there are wires everywhere.
At this point Chris meets a woman Lana when he is at the pet store and soon after she is living with him. I had a hard time recalling the name of this actress and seriously thought it was Darryl Hannah until the credits at the end showed this to be Lori Singer. A David Bowie song at the end was worth listening to as the soundtrack was by EMI Records. The Falcon and the Snowman is set in Los Angeles.
Daulton has no trouble getting in and out of the US and Mexico during his travels and even comes up with another trade for dealing in kilos of heroin. It is not revealed whether they agree to this but we can see Daulton using cocaine in the streets of Mexico City often. His contact at the embassy implores him not to go there due to the cameras and instead wait at the locations where he puts an X on the street poles. At least two times Daulton does not comply with these directions and receives harsh treatment from them. They want to deal instead with Chris and learn of the frequency the messages are sent in.
Chris wants to end the espionage and tells Daulton this has to stop. Daulton wants to expand their dealings and add others into the mix so he is not the one doing all the risky meetings. Chris?s co-workers seem oblivious to what is really going on and just enjoy goofing off and at night they are always at strip joints having a good time.
When Chris moved out into his own place his parents showed up and Daulton had to hide in the bathroom but later made his presence known. Chris?s parents were not happy that Daulton was back in the picture but Chris blew them off saying Daulton just showed up and they are no longer friends.
Chris cracks under the pressure around Jana and she can tell something is off while Daulton is losing it under the drug influence. Chris takes time off of work and arrives in Mexico City to end the espionage stating he is not a professional like they are. The contact then reminds him that he came to them and once he accepted money he became a professional. Daulton screws up and ends up getting arrested outside the embassy and Chris is back in California leaving his job ready to go back to college.
Daulton gets roughly treated in their jails and then gets the choice of the Soviet Union or the US and he crosses over to the border with tons of police waiting to arrest him. Meanwhile in California Chris has his briefcase filled with the final copies of data as he arrives home and starts to open the briefcase the lights come on and a surprise party is there for him with family and co-workers.
Before Chris gets arrested he is in a field setting his falcon, ?Fawkes? free. He had mentioned to Lana when she met the falcon that he named him after the guy who attempted to blow up Parliament. He had a stuffed owl in his apartment that he would look and talk but in the end tore it apart thinking there was a wire in it.
There are parts of The Falcon and the Snowman that seem to make little sense as to what motivated Chris in the first place to expose the CIA. It is quite obvious that Daulton is involved to stay out of prison and for the drugs but the rush leads to paranoia with a scene at the airport eerily portrayed by Sean Penn.
The scenes at the Court House show both families recalling Chris and Daulton in happier times when they were younger and had graduated high school. It all seemed so meaningless when they were led to prison to spend the rest of their lives. Both Chris and Daulton seemed to be lost souls losing faith in all as the movie progressed. If you choose to read the full details listed here at this site, please note they have the characters wrong.
Currently The Falcon and the Snowman sells at amazon.com for $13.99 or a used copy for $1.99. You might be able to catch it again on American Movie Classics or rent it one evening because it is worth seeing but not buying. The author of the book the movie is based on is Robert Lindsey.