The Falcon and the Snowman

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The Falcon and the Snowman
Falcon and the snowman ver3.jpg
Promotional movie poster for the film
Directed by John Schlesinger
Produced by Gabriel Katzka
John Schlesinger
Screenplay by Steven Zaillian
Based on The Falcon and the Snowman: A True Story of Friendship and Espionage by Robert Lindsey
Starring Timothy Hutton
Sean Penn
Music by Lyle Mays
Pat Metheny
Cinematography Allen Daviau
Edited by Richard Marden
Production
company
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release dates
  • January 25, 1985 (1985-01-25) (U.S.)
Running time
131 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $7 million
Box office $17,130,087

The Falcon and the Snowman is a 1985 film directed by John Schlesinger about two young American men, Christopher Boyce (played by Timothy Hutton) and Daulton Lee (played by Sean Penn), who sold U.S. security secrets to the Soviet Union. The film is based upon the 1979 book The Falcon and the Snowman: A True Story of Friendship and Espionage by Robert Lindsey, and features the song "This Is Not America", written and performed by David Bowie and the Pat Metheny Group.

Plot synopsis[edit]

The Falcon and the Snowman is based on the true story of former altar boy and former Catholic seminary student Christopher Boyce and drug dealer Andrew Daulton Lee, two young men from wealthy California families who sold classified government information to the Soviet Union during the mid-1970s.

Boyce, an expert in the sport of falconry—thus, the nickname "Falcon"—gets a job at a civilian defense contractor (TRW, called "RTX" in the movie) working in the so-called "Black Vault," a secure communication facility through which flows information on some of the most classified U.S. operations in the world. Boyce becomes 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 duplicity, Boyce decides to repay his government by passing classified secrets to the Soviets.

Lee is a drug addict and minor smuggler, sometimes called "the Snowman" (in reference to his cocaine sales), who has frustrated and alienated his family. Lee agrees to actually contact and deal with the KGB's agents in Mexico on Boyce's behalf, motivated not by idealism but by what he perceives as an opportunity to make money, then eventually settle in his idea of paradise, Costa Rica.

As the pair become increasingly involved with espionage, Lee's ambition to create a major espionage business coupled with his excessive drug use began alienating the two from each other. Alex, their Soviet handler, becomes increasingly reluctant to deal through Lee as the middleman because of Lee's periods of irrationality. Boyce wants to end the espionage so that he can resume a normal life with his girlfriend Lana and attend college. He meets with Lee's KGB handler to explain the situation.

Lee is desperate to regain the Soviets' regard after realizing that the KGB no longer needs him as a courier now that they have direct contact with Boyce. Lee is observed tossing a note over the fence at the Soviet embassy in Mexico City. He is arrested by Mexican police, and a U.S. Foreign Services officer accompanies him to the police station.

When the police search his pockets and find film (from a Minox spy camera Boyce used to photograph documents) and a postcard (used by the Soviets to show the haphazard Lee the location of a drop zone), they produce pictures of the same location that was on the postcard, showing officers surrounding a dead man on the street. The Foreign Services officer explains that the Mexican police are trying to implicate him with the murder of a policeman. The police drag away Lee and torture him.

Hours later, he reveals that he is a Soviet spy ... the real reason the police had been ordered to detain him. Told by the Mexican police that he will be deported, Lee is offered a choice of where to be sent. Lee suggests Costa Rica, but the choice is merely between the Soviet Union and the United States. Lee reluctantly agrees to go back to America and is arrested as he walks across the border.

Knowing that he too will soon be captured, Boyce releases his pet falcon named "Fawkes" in a field and then sits down to wait. Moments later, U.S. Marshals and FBI agents surround and capture him. The movie ends with both Lee and Boyce in prisoner jumpsuits and shackles, flanked on either side by officers escorting them to prison.

Cast[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

The Falcon and The Snowman received generally positive notices upon release in 1985 and currently has 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. Film critic Roger Ebert gave it a perfect four-star rating, citing one of the many strengths as that "it succeeds, in an admirably matter-of-fact way, in showing us exactly how these two young men got in way over their heads. This is a movie about spies, but it is not a thriller in any routine sense of the word. It's just the meticulously observant record of how naiveté, inexperience, misplaced idealism and greed led to one of the most peculiar cases of treason in American history."

HBO Satellite Jamming[edit]

The film obtained some notice during a showing of the movie on HBO in 1986 when it was jammed by a satellite broadcast operator calling himself Captain Midnight.

Music[edit]

External links[edit]