Sunday 9 April 2023

Movie Review: The Package (1989)

Genre: Cold War Thriller
Director: Andrew Davis
Starring: Gene Hackman, Tommy Lee Jones, Joanna Cassidy, John Heard, Dennis Franz
Running Time: 108 minutes

Synopsis: In Berlin, the US and the USSR agree to sign a nuclear disarmament treaty, but secretly, generals on both sides want to torpedo the deal. US Army Sergeant Johnny Gallagher (Gene Hackman) tangles with the shadowy Colonel Whitacre (John Heard), and is then ordered to escort a prisoner (Tommy Lee Jones) from Germany to the United States. In Washington DC the prisoner escapes, and Johnny turns to his ex-wife and army colonel Eileen (Joanna Cassidy) for help. They uncover the threads of an assassination conspiracy planned for the treaty signing ceremony in Chicago, but Johnny and Eileen are soon being framed and hunted.

What Works Well: Released less than three months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, writer John Bishop's ambitiously complex plot enjoys good production values and multiple characters carrying the load of heavy borrowings from the John F. Kennedy assassination (including the conspiracy angles) and The Day Of The Jackal. The cast is rich in talent, with Gene Hackman, Tommy Lee Jones, John Heard, and Dennis Franz (as a Chicago police commander) all in fine form. Director Andrew Davis maintains primary focus on plot tensions and keeps the action scenes relatively short and sharp.

What Does Not Work As Well: With a plot encompassing multiple bad guys from two countries spread out in several cities, the logic gaps are often startling, best exemplified by the early multiple murder of high-ranking US military men that passes without comment. Joanna Cassidy's role becomes increasingly redundant as the plot moves along, and the breathless racing-around scenes in the third act could have been trimmed in favour of heftier plot justifications.

Conclusion: The Package never threatens to ignite, but still delivers a solid-enough addition to the Cold War thriller subgenre.

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