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The Falcon and the Snowman

Director John Schlesinger's take on this real-life espionage scandal is frustratingly uneven treatment of a potentially thrilling story. Timothy Hutton stars as Chris Boyce, a young man who walks out on seminary school and is quickly grandfathered into a job monitoring top secret spy satellite communications. His naiveté, combined with fresh Watergate-inspired disillusionment, gets the best of him when he comes across a misrouted message about CIA intervention in Australian labor issues. Without much forethought, Boyce enlists the help of his boyhood pal, erratic drug pusher Dalton Lee (Sean Penn), to sell U.S. satellite info to the Russian embassy in Mexico. Penn's performance is a tour de force of selfish, substance-addled paranoia. Hutton, too, is good, although his confident presence is somewhat at odds with Boyce's obviously poor judgement. While Schlesinger is a master at building suspense and political tension, he's a mess when it comes to human relationships. Boyce is an enigma, the tension with his father is an empty cliché, and his relationship with dreadful actress Lori Singer is so negligible it may as well not exist. Too often these underdeveloped elements — and, toward the end, Englishman Schlesinger's shallow, condescending critique of U.S. politics — butt in to an otherwise enticing tale of two of America's most recently captured traitors. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 2.0 Surround. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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