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USA 1994
Directed by
John Schlesinger
131 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

The Falcon And The Snowman

John Schlesinger’s treatment, based on a book by Robert Lindsey, of the true life story of a couple of young middle-class Californians, Christopher Boyce (Timothy Hutton) and Daulton Lee (Sean Penn) who sold US government secrets to the Russians and were eventually sentenced to life and 40 years imprisonment respectively, is admirably low key in tracking their gradual drift into waters well over their heads. Boyce was driven by a sense of moral outrage at the political machinations of the CIA (specifically their alleged involvement in the downfall of the Whitlam government in 1975) whilst his boyhood friend, Lee, was a drug-dealing opportunist in it for the money and the thrills.  

Although Schlesinger successfully invests the story with tension, the film is less about the mechanics of espionage than the characters and the relationship between them. In this respect both actors are excellent in their parts with Penn outstanding as the out-of-control, chronically-dishonest Lee whilst Hutton provides a solid foil as his level-headed, quietly idealistic friend (Penn, of course, has since carved himself an A list career playing troubled characters whilst Hutton has dropped below the radar).  The Falcon And The Snowman is an  engrossing drama given greater impact by the fact that it is a real life story.




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