The Falcon and the Snowman is a 1985 American spy drama film directed by John Schlesinger. The screenplay by Steven Zaillian is based on the 1979 book The Falcon and the Snowman: A True Story of Friendship and Espionage by Robert Lindsey, and tells the true story of two young American men, Christopher Boyce (Timothy Hutton) and Andrew Daulton Lee (Sean Penn), who sold US security secrets to the Soviet Union. The film features the song "This Is Not America," written and performed by David Bowie and the Pat Metheny Group.
Boyce, an expert in the sport of falconry and son of an FBI office employee, gets a job at a civilian defense contractor 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 cocaine smuggler, called "the Snowman," who has frustrated and alienated his family. Lee agrees to 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 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 begins to alienate 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. 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 Service officer accompanies him to the police station.
When the police search his pockets and find film (from a Minox camera Boyce used to photograph documents) and a postcard (used by the Soviets to show 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 Service officer explains that the Mexican police are trying to implicate him with the murder of a policeman. The police drag Lee away and torture him.
Hours later, he reveals that he is a Soviet spy. 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 and then sits down to wait. Moments later, U.S. Marshals and FBI agents surround and capture him. Lee and Boyce are seen in jumpsuits and shackles flanked by officers escorting them to prison.
The Falcon and The Snowman received generally positive notices upon release in 1985 and currently has an 84% 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."