Tuesday, November 15, 2011


(January 1985, U.S.)

I have to say that it's a shame, like Paul Newman and Robert Redford, that Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn only made two films together (the other one was TAPS) because I always thought they had quite a good chemistry with each other. Looking back at the early 1980s, I'd have guessed that it would've been Hutton who might have turned out to be the bigger cinematic star. Not so, huh?

Like LESS THAN ZERO (1987), this film centers on two young boys who are both from wealthy, upscale California families and who have, nonethless, both turned to a lifestyle of crime. Christopher Boyce (played by Hutton) and Daulton Lee (played by Penn) were both real life men who sold U.S. security secrets to the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Dalton, I might add, is also a drug dealter. I might also add, and it's difficult to tell if he was really like this in real life or if Penn is simply playing him this way, that Daulton was a major incompetent fuck up! So much so, that you can't help but wonder why someone as intelligent as Chris would put his trust and confidence is someone like Daulton in the first place. I suppose boyhood friendship can go a long way in these matters. As a young civil defense contractor, Chris works inside a secure communication facility through which flows much information on some of the most classified U.S. operations in the world. Chris has becomed disillusioned with the U.S. government through his new position, especially after reading a misrouted communiqué dealing with the CIA's plan to depose the Prime Minister of Australia. Frustrated by this apparent duplicity, Chris decides to repay his own government by passing classified secrets to the Soviets. Daulton agrees to actually contact and deal with the KGB on Chris' behalf, motivated not by any idealism, but by what he perceives as an great opportunity to make a lot of money and eventually settle in his idea of paradise of Costa Rica. And as one would predict, these sort of illegal activities don't last too long and the twisted dreams of these boys, no matter how they've been motivated, come crashing down around them.

Although I consider this one of Timothy Hutton's best roles after ORDINARY PEOPLE (1980), THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN was not a particularly popular film during it's theatrical run. It did obtain some interesting notoriety as a broadcast of the film on HBO in 1986 was jammed by a satellite broadcast operator calling himself "Captain Midnight". I wish I'd seen that.

Some interesting facts about Christopher Boyce himself. In 1980, he escaped from prison and while a fugitive, committed seventeen bank robberies in Idaho and Washington State, eventually being captured in 1981. Boyce was just finally paroled in 2002, as was Daulton Lee before him 1998. Boyce later justified his actions by claiming that he was selling this information in the hopes of fostering peace between the Soviet Union and the United States. But when you consider the fact that he began his crimes during the 1970s when the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War were at their height, why would an intelligent young man be so shocked and disillusioned to learn that his own govenment was so corrupt? Come on, everybody knows THAT!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Christopher Boyce: "I know a thing or two about predatory behavior, and what once was a legitimate intelligence agency is now being used on weaker governments."

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