John Schlesinger was an interesting director he was British and a gay man and very conflicted about it. This was often reflected in his films such as Midnight Cowboy, Sunday Bloody Sunday and even the relationship between Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Oliver’s sadistic dentist in Marathon Man had homoerotic undercurrents. The Falcon and the Snowman doesn’t really have any of this personal turmoil which often rubbed in the films except maybe the main male strong relationship between the two leads but it’s not sexual in any way.
The story is shockingly based on a true story of this disillusioned defence contractor Christopher Boyce (Timothy Hutton) who becomes disgusted by the US government and decides to sell secrets to the Soviets. This all happened immediately after the Watergate scandal and he enlists his childhood friend Andrew Lee (Sean Penn) who just happens to be a drug dealer and see it as a money-making venture not for any idealistic reasons.
The film has become very interesting in a post-Edward Snowden age who similarly was a defence contractor for NSA. Snowden was a more politically minded person and was never a spy (as much as some mass media may want you to believe) and in his decision to leak the documents there was real political conviction. Boyce’s decision was based on finding out the US wanted to oust the Australian prime minister. However they are similarities in the two stories so it’s a fascinating watch and would make a good if a bit long double bill with the Snowden doc Citizenfour.
The chemistry between Hutton and Penn is strong, Hutton was a star in the ’80s but is totally forgotten now even if he shows up in supporting roles ever once in a while. Penn adopts a slightly bizarre accent but has his trademark intensity even so early in his career is evident and he perfectly captures the drug addled paranoid he faces in the last act. It does suffer from being slightly over long it runs at 2 hours and 11 minutes and would probably be considered a total classic if it was chopped down by 20 minutes or so. However it’s a well made thriller which seems more timely with Snowden and Chelsea Manning in the news.
Biography, Crime, Drama |USA, 1985 | 15|101 Films |19th October 2015 (UK) | Dir. John Schlesinger |Sean Penn, Timothy Hutton, Pat Hingle | Buy:Falcon and the Snowman [Blu-ray]