Adapted from Robert Ludlum's thriller, this trails a McGuffin about an un-American spy ring, but really revolves around a top brass CIA man with his eye on dictatorship (Lancaster), a disgruntled agent whom the aforesaid bastard has doublecrossed (Hurt), and a flag-waving investigative reporter (Hauer) whom Hurt manipulates into a game of unmask the spy from three candidates (Hopper, Nelson, Sarandon) that has a much more sinister purpose. It all raises the question: who needs another mess of espionage and post-Watergate paranoia? Not Peckinpah, certainly, since he shows scant interest in the convolutions of the plot (neatly enough set out in Alan Sharp's script). Instead, he toys with the agent's name (Fassett) as an excuse to explore facets of reality, fascinatingly turning the screen into a multi-purpose surveillance device. There's a neat trick involving a prerecorded 'live' TV show, a precision-timed shootout round a swimming-pool, some flickers of dark humour. Not a hell of a lot to come away with, except that (sadly, Peckinpah's last film) it is directed with such dazzling skill.
Cast and crew
Craig T Nelson