This review contains SPOILERS!
Winning the award of the most oddly named movie, "The Falcon and the Snowman" is suspenseful and full of unexpected dilemmas. The movie tells the true story of Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee, two boys who were caught up in a world of espionage and crime.
The movie begins as Christopher (Timothy Hutton) writes a letter in a church. This letter is about Christopher's decision to not become a priest, that had been his plan for a long time. He picks up his trusty falcon, an animal that seems like another limb for the first part of the film, and walks outside.
This is a boy who doesn't really know what he wants to do with his life. Does he want to be a doctor? A lawyer? He certainly cannot but a finger on his career path.
The one thing that Christopher does know is his conscience, the thing that steers him down many twisted paths throughout the movie.
Christopher is friends with Andrew (Sean Penn), a boy who has taken a turn for the worse even at the beginning of the film. Andrew is a drug dealer and an addict himself. Living in semi-luxury, Andrew is sheltered a little bit from the "real world" and its problems. He doesn't understand people the way that Christopher does...in Andrew's world, everyone thinks like Andrew does.
Because he no longer has a plan for his life, Christopher is pressured into taking a job by his ex-FBI father. The job is essentially a message center for the CIA—Christopher doesn't realize that he's top secret until his clearance level is through the roof.
The adolescence and immaturity of both main characters is one of the most interesting aspects of the movie. You could attribute their mistakes to their youth; but I think that they are just misguided—somehow thinking that they are doing no harm.
Christopher is the one with the brains and the guts. Andrew is sort of a leech that sucks life out of everyone he comes in contact with, though he does realize this. He doesn't want his younger brother to turn out the way that he has—one point has Andrew in a car chase with the police pursuing him while he's lecturing his brother on the side effects of drugs. It's clear that he wants to do good, perhaps he just doesn't know how.
Interesting messages start appearing in the office where Christopher works, while the security is high...the people doesn't care how they act. Chris's two co-workers are carefree and wild. They make margaritas and bloody marys with the shredder...not exactly sanctioned acts of government property.
Christopher is the only person in the trio of mayhem and fun who seems to care about the messages coming across. Some involve satellites, Russia, Australia, and labor unions. The boy begins to suspect that something Big Brother-esque and foul is going on.
After pondering about it for many hours, Christopher decides that he wants to sell certain information to the Communists in Mexico. He doesn't know how to push substances around so he conscripts Andrew to do it for him.
All Andrew hears is "money". If this were a cartoon, his eyes would have filled up with dollar sings ($$$$$).
But Christopher doesn't start it for the money, that's something that he doesn't really care about. He really thinks that he's doing the right thing.
So Andrew hops down to Mexico, fleeing a felony warrant and parades into the embassy where he finds the men he will sell his information to.
From here on out is paranoia and wonderful suspense.
The film really does manage to create a sense of urgency.
"The Falcon and the Snowman" never glorifies its protagonists, but it does something that "Monster" failed to do—I empathized with the characters. I felt for them. They were real to me for that short space of time in the film.
The movie plays with the idea of families a lot, a curiously unexplained relationship between Christopher and his father may have had more effect on Chris's actions than he would like to admit.
Both Hutton and Penn are remarkably young in "The Falcon and the Snowman"; but each of them gives big performances that rival many seasoned actors. Penn in particular finds some meaning in a meaningless role. Andrew is dull, but Penn makes him fascinating.
This movie has faded from the public mind, but I think that it should be brought back.
It's not perfect, one of the major flaws of the movie was the bizarre and unpredictable score that bounces along from techno to strings and back again with no hesitancy....not a big deal, but still distracting.
"The Falcon and the Snowman" resembles a later work: "Catch Me if You Can"; though it is much more grounded and focused.
It's a good and effective movie.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4