Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. United Kingdom/USA, 1985. Hemdale. Screenplay by Steven Zaillian, based on the book by Robert Lindsey. Cinematography by Allen Daviau. Produced by Gabriel Katzka, John Schlesinger. Music by Lyle Mays, Pat Metheny. Production Design by James D. Bissell. Costume Design by Albert Wolsky. Film Editing by Richard Marden.
True story about Christopher Boyce and Daulton Lee, two young men from wealthy California families who decided to turn a profit by selling CIA secrets to the Russians during the Cold War. Boyce (Timothy Hutton) is an employee for a military contractor who has grown disillusioned with a government he feels is unethical in its use of power, so he teams up with his drug-dealing best friend Lee (Sean Penn), who is constantly on the run from the authorities, to carry out his plan. Lee basically marches into the Russian embassy in Mexico and sells them information by the piece, with both boys thinking they can play their little spy game for as long as they want and walk away from it whenever they choose; reality, unfortunately, has a different plan in store for them. John Schlesinger’s smart, razor-sharp pacing provides the most entertaining film he made in the last two decades of his career, but it doesn’t offer enough character depth to really make it stick. Also hampering the experience are two completely unappealing performances, Hutton monotoned and unenthusiastic in the lead and Penn going way overboard in his caricature of west-coast privilege gone awry. Still, it’s a fascinating story at its core.