In September1973, in Chile, the American journalist Charles Horman arrives in Valparaiso with his friend Terry Simon to meet his wife Beth and bring her back to New York with him. However, they are surprised by the military coup d'état sponsored by the US Government to replace President Salvador Allende and Charles is arrested by the military force. His father Ed Horman, a conservative businessman from New York, arrives in Chile to seek out his missing son with Beth. He goes to the American Consulate to meet the Consul that promises the best efforts to find Charles while the skeptical Beth does not trust on the word of the American authorities. The nationalism and confidence of Ed in his government changes when he finds the truth about what happened with his beloved son.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
One of three movies starring both Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. They also appear in the equally controversial JFK (1991), a large ensemble cast where they share no scenes. Both films received several Oscar nominations including Best Picture. The third movie featuring Spacek and Lemmon is The Grass Harp (1995). See more »
Ed is shown arriving in Chile on a Pan Am DC-10. Pan Am did not operate the DC-10 until 1980 when it purchased National Airlines. See more »
There's a particularly chilling scene in this movie. It comes near the end in a confrontation between Charles Horman (Jack Lemmon) and staff members of the American ambassador in post-coup Chile, 1973. To this point the staff has sounded polished and professional in their concern for Horman's missing son, an apparent casualty of the coup. But in this scene the devious reality of American policy begins to emerge from behind the velvet glove, and Horman's passage from credulous liberal to disillusioned skeptic is complete. In a nutshell, the scene symbolizes one of the great divides in American political life, between the polished propaganda face our government presents to the people and the grim realities that face covers over, especially in dealing with Third World countries like Chile. Horman represents the frustration many feel in trying to deal with a cosmetic facade supported by both major political parties, when beneath it crouches the murderous policies of imperial rule.The real question the film poses is what Horman will do upon returning home.
The film itself remains a gripping eyeopener from first to last. Costa-Gravas is especially good at recreating the abject terror of fascist rule: where long hair is forbidden and women are forced back into skirts, where people are present one minute and gone the next, where a democratically elected government is present one minute and gone the next, and where a Henry Kissinger can do the behind-the-scenes dirty work and be honored for it (not in the movie, but true nevertheless). The acting is first-rate, and a tour-de-force for Lemmon in particular. Ditto, the often overlooked Charles Cioffi who puts the real chill in the confrontation scene. Two complaints: the arch symbolism of the riderless white horse conflicts with Costa-Gravas's documentary approach, and why, oh why, did they have to make Horman's son so cuddly. The audience gets the point without spooning on the sugar. Anyhow, this remains a fine piece of revelatory film-making and retains as much relevancy for today's audience as it did twenty years ago.
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