THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN (1985)

Print Written by Nigel Watson

This is based on a true story about two sons of wealthy parents who passed on secrets to the Soviet Union in the 1970s. One son, Christopher Boyce, is a falconry expert who is nicknamed the ‘Falcon’. The other, Daulton Lee, a drug addict and smuggler, is nicknamed the ‘Snowman’ due to the snow white cocaine he deals with. Neat way of getting a catchy title, even though it is more suggestive of a children’s Christmas cartoon than an espionage thriller.

When Christopher (Timothy Hutton) gets employed in the ‘black vault’ where the RTX defence contractor operates a communication network for US covert operations, he is shocked at his government’s deceitfulness. When he discovers a plot to remove the Prime Minister of Australia, he decides to leak these secrets to the Soviets.

Daulton (Sean Penn) is used as a middle-man by Christopher to contact the KGB in Mexico, but things soon fall apart due to Daulton’s sloppiness, increasing drug use and ambitions to run an international espionage network. It could so easily have been called ‘Greed and the Idealist’. Anyway, things go badly for them and the power of the authorities is too great for them to stay at liberty.

Today, we can equate Christopher with whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, and back in 1985, at the time of the film’s release there had been numerous movies, especially post-Watergate (1974), that implicated the US Government in dirty doings.

Penn is brilliant as the angry, greedy, drug-crazed Daulton, who suffers at the hands of the Mexican police before he’s shipped back to the USA. In contrast, Christopher is not an out-of-the-ordinary person, he has a girlfriend and supportive family. Symbolically, he is at least able to release his Falcon to the wild before the authorities capture him.

In this film, the men in suits ruthlessly rule the world and imprison us by the rules of the Cold War. Schlesinger shows how both men from the same very ‘normal’ background make different decisions, but both end up being branded traitors.

THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN/ DIRECTOR: JOHN SCHLESINGER / SCREENPLAY: STEVEN ZAILLIAN / STARRING: TIMOTHY HUTTON, SEAN PENN, PAT HINGLE, DAVID SUCHET / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW


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