Based on the nonfiction book by Thomas Hauser and directed by Costa-Gavras, during the coup in Chile that started on September 11, 1983 a young American learns of the involvement of the American military and is arrested and disappeared. His wife and father personally investigate to find out what happened to him.
Charles Horman (John Shea) is sitting in the backseat of a car and sees a truck carrying soldiers. Captain Ray Tower (Charles Cioffi) is driving the car that is stopped and told by an officer that he can go ahead. Terry Simon (Melanie Mayron) is in the front seat, and Ray asks her where she lives. Charles asks why, and Ray says it is only thirty minutes to curfew. Charles says he can drop them at the Hotel Cabrera. He stops the car there and gives Terry his business card with his home number so that she can call him. She thanks him and gets out.
In the hotel Charles tells Terry that the telephones don’t work there either, and he suggests they get a cab. She asks why he did not let him take them home. He says he does not want him to know where they live.
Charles with Terry tries to get a taxi, but two drop off passengers and refuse to take him. He says he blew it. She says he didn’t and offers to use her credit card so they can stay in the hotel. They hear a siren. He says it is curfew, and they had better go in.
In a room Charles looks out the window while Terry is in bed.
Some hotel guests on a patio clap as the army trucks pass by.
Terry asks Charles if he is all right and urges him to keep positive. He keeps thinking that Patrick said he saw bodies everywhere. She says Beth is all right, and nothing will happen to her. He hopes so. She says she is probably hiding in the bathtub with the duck. She asks him to laugh because that is the best thing she has said all day. He is sitting at a table and wishes it was morning. He asks if the light bothers her, and she says no. She asks if it is smart for him to keep all those notes. He writes what she said at 3 a.m. in his diary.
Charles gets out of a taxi and is followed by Terry as he goes in the house. Inside he finds Beth Horman (Sissy Spacek) sleeping on the sofa and kisses her awake. She is glad he is alive and asks where he has been. He says in Vina. She says he was supposed to be there one day. He says they couldn’t get back. She asks why he did not call her because she has been going nuts. He couldn’t help it. She feared something terrible had happened. He says they were trapped. The roads are down, and the telephones were out. She says she loves him, and he says he missed her. She did not know if he was dead or alive. He says everyone is safe, and she sees Terry who waves to her. She says she was worried and playfully hits him. He picks her up. She says they were living at the beach, and she got stuck with the duck. Terry hands her a shell and says it is from Charlie. She says she heard it on the radio, and five minutes later bombs were going off down the street. He turns on the radio and asks if she was scared. She says she hid under the bed, and she stays in the bedroom and offers to help Terry. He looks in the refrigerator and hopes they are not hungry. Terry says they are starved. He asks Beth if there is anything to eat but cockroaches. She says no because she is scared to go out shopping. He suggests Long Island duck and tells the quacking duck he was just kidding. Beth tells Terry they are old jokes. Terry says she has been hearing them for five days. Beth says she should try them for five years. Terry offers Beth a sweatshirt and says she knows she can’t get them here. They hear shooting nearby, and Beth says she wants to go home. He gives in and says they will go. Beth suggests they go with Terry today, but he replies he can’t go without all his stuff. He promises they will go. He asks if she has heard from David or Frank, and she says no. She hopes they are okay, and he says he had better check on them. She offers to go and tells him to take Terry to the airport. Terry asks if they want her to take a walk. He says later, and Beth hits him and says not too much later. They hear another gunshot. He says Patrick told him they are running search-and-destroy missions. He is a colonel in Vina. He says they saw some very upsetting things there. Beth asks if she is going to let him read it or tell her. He says whichever she prefers.
On the street Charles, Beth, and Terry get at the end of a line of people waiting. He asks Beth what time she is coming home, and she says four. They embrace, and she says she won’t be late. He warns her not to be. She hears her ride and gets into a taxi with other people. It drives off. A soldier removes two women in pants from the line and takes them to the jeep of soldiers. Terry and Charles get on the bus. He says the soldiers told them that from now on women in this country wear dresses. They see a soldier cutting the pants on one woman.
Charles and Terry get off the bus. He sees the soldiers there and says a week ago this place was the quietest on Earth. He goes to look for Braniff. He tries to buy a newspaper but can’t. He turns and sees Terry walking away in front of two soldiers with rifles. He sees soldiers standing around civilians lying on the street. He hurries by and crosses a street passing by soldiers. He sees the two soldiers searching Terry, and he tells the guard in front that he is with her in Spanish. The soldier concludes the search by feeling her breasts. A soldier asks her a question in Spanish, and Charles tells her they want to know where she is going. He says she is an American and was going to New York and going to Braniff to get her ticket. A soldier tells her in English that the airport is closed. He hands her passport back to her and says she may go. While she is getting her things together, they notice a body under a bloody sheet. He tells her not to look as they walk away.
Charles with Terry in the American embassy asks for Mrs. Tyler. The man behind the desk is reading a book and tells them there is no one here with that name. Charles asks if they could speak to whomever is in charge of helping American citizens leave the country. The man says that is not their job; he will have to go to the consulate. She says they were told that the consulate was closed because of gunfire and that the consulate was working here. He says that is news to him. She asks him to call to find out. The man says she will have to go there because it is lunch time, and everyone is gone. Charles thanks him, and they walk away. Kate Newman (Janice Rule) tells them she is a freelance reporter from New York. Charles says he has no comment because it was a friendly misunderstanding. She advises them to come back after lunch and demand to see the ambassador because the consulate is over a mile away, and the streets are murder. He asks her to do him a big favor and let him borrow her newspaper.
Charles, Terry, and Kate are sitting at a table in a restaurant reading the newspaper. He doesn’t understand why there is nothing in the news because they told them in Vina that the military was executing thousands of people here. She asks when they were in Vina, and he says yesterday. He says their hotel was filled with American military officers. She advises him to forget about that. A woman complains that a man is taking away an older man, and a man in a suit and tie keeps her from following them. Charles tells them to wait a minute, but another man in a suit and tie knocks him down. Kate helps him up to a chair, and the two men note they are Americans and go to get in the car with the woman who complained. The car drives off. Kate asks why he did that, and he says he does not know. She tells them to forget this and Vina. They should find a safe place in a hotel with lots of people around and hole up there until they can get out of here. She gets up and leaves.
Outside the Hotel Cabrera he tells Terry that she will get a room there for Beth and him and stay there. Charles says he has enough money, and she has her credit card. He gives her a coin and goes to get Beth. She warns him to be careful. He tells her not to worry; they can’t hurt them because they are Americans.
Beth is touching pregnant Maria and says she thought she felt him kick. She tells Maria to have faith. She says Carlos will be okay. Another woman speaks in Spanish. Beth says he is probably hiding in the mountains. Maria knows they are going to kill him because they are killing everybody. Maria and the other woman tell Beth that she must go. The other woman says she will take care of Maria. Beth asks Maria to let her know if she gets any news, and she kisses her goodbye.
Beth goes out on the porch and asks Frank Teruggi (Joe Regalbuto) what happened to Carlos. David Holloway (Keith Szarabajka) says somebody might have blown his brains out. David says Carlos is in hiding, but Cleo really disappeared. Frank says all of a sudden this place is like a free-fire zone. They shoot you for being left-handed. She hopes they are not planning to stay around too long. David says the party is over. Frank says it was not a party; they were trying to do something new here. She has to go so that Charlie won’t kill her. She asks them to promise to call them from New York, and David says he will. She hugs David and then Frank, saying she is sorry things didn’t work out for him.
Beth sees her bus go by and cannot catch it. She stands on the street and waves to buses that do not stop. She stops a taxi that does not pick her up. A soldier whistles at her. She sees a bloody body on the street. She hides by a closed bridal store and asks for help in Spanish, but the man tells her to get out and says no foreigners here. She leaves.
Beth walks on the street in the dark. She sees a young man who is also scared. He runs off, hears soldiers and runs back, warning her. She follows him and hides. She sees him running away. She hears gunfire and sees a white horse galloping down the street followed by a jeep with soldiers.
At dawn Beth comes out of her hiding place and crosses the street. She comes back to their house and goes in, calling for Charlie. She sees the place is a mess after a destructive search. A man in a suit comes in and tells her in Spanish that the soldiers came last night. She asks about her husband, but he does not know. He warns her to leave because the soldiers might come back.
A senator (Hansford Rowe) asks Ed Horman (Jack Lemmon) if he spoke to their ambassador down there. Ed says he spoke to Mr. Shipler, but all he knew was that his son is missing. The senator asks if he has been to the State Department. Ed says he tried many people, but the senator is the first one who would see him. The senator urges him to get to them, and he asks how his son makes a living. Ed says he considers himself a writer. The senator says the important thing is to help him.
Ed is sitting at a table in the State Department, and an old man tells him they have been unable to find any trace of his son. Neither they nor the military government knows where he is. Ed says the New York Times reported that he had been arrested. The man says that is what his daughter-in-law told the press. He says she has been pestering the embassy people. Ed says that Terry Simon is a friend who was there on vacation and was caught in the coup. She confirmed everything Beth told him. The woman at the table says that all the arrested Americans have been released thanks to the efforts of the State Department. She says the last two were Frank Teruggi and David Holloway, and Teruggi left without even thanking the embassy. The man says it is going to take time, and he suggests Ed go back to New York, relax, and let them handle it.
In a hall Ed tells an assistant Bob that he met the Congressman at a Christian Science church in New York. Bob asks if his son is also a Christian Scientist, but Ed says he knows how young people are. They go into an office, and Bob asks Ed to wait there. The Congressman (Ward Costello) comes into the office and introduces his assistant Ann and Bob. Ed agrees to talk while they walk. The Congressman asks what they say, and Bob says they think he is in hiding. Ann says it is for political reasons. Bob says they think he will surface when things calm down. The Congressman asks what his politics are, and Ed says he supposes he is liberal. The Congressman asks if he is liberal or radical, and Ed says his son is too wishy-washy to be radical. Ed asks what difference it makes. The Congressman asks if Percy and Abzug are sending cables. Ed says they promised to do so as did Kemp, Koch, Magnuson, Javits, and him. The Congressman says he will consider it and wishes him luck. They shake hands with him and go into another office.
A plane arrives at an airport guarded by many soldiers. At customs they tell Ed to give them the books in his briefcase. He says they are Bibles because he is a Christian Scientist. Consul Phil Putnam (David Clennon) introduces himself and gives him the books. Ed asks for news, and Phil says nothing but that they are on top of the situation. He says they cabled from Washington that he was coming down. They see soldiers arresting a family. Ed says there seems to be a war going on here, and Phil admits there is. Ed says he thought the coup was over. Phil says it is, but there are still problems. He says the ambassador can see him at 3:30. They get into a car, and Ed asks how long Phil has lived there. He says three years, four months, and nineteen days. Phil says it is not a bad country, but he is ready for a change. He hopes to go to Brazil but will go wherever they send him. He tells the driver to go to the Hotel Cabrera.
The car parks, and Beth sees Ed get out and goes and hugs him. She wanted to meet him at the airport, but she was trying to meet Major Pieta. Phil says they will be back to pick them up at 2:30. She and Ed go into his room, and he unpacks his suitcase. He says his trip was delightful. When she asks about Elizabeth, he asks her how she thinks she is. She asks if he blames her. He says nothing. She asks if he found out anything in Washington. He says no, but Putnam seems to think things are in good hands around here. He asks if she does not agree. She does not expect much anymore because he has been gone two weeks. They keep giving her the same song and dance. She says he could be hurt or tortured, and they don’t care about him. He does not want to hear any of her anti-establishment paranoia. He gets enough of it from his son. He says if he had settled down where he belongs, this never would have happened. He asks her please not to cry. He tells her he will find him. He has a bag of things that Charles told him were hard to get, and she says not anymore. He gives her fudge from his mother. He suggests she freshen up and says they have only one hour. He asks where Terry is, and she says she is at Braniff picking up her tickets. He asks when she goes, and she says tomorrow. He asks if she is all right. She says Terry and she are both all right. She goes out. He looks out the window.
Ed hears a knock, and Beth comes in with different clothes and presents herself. He says before they start, he has to ask her a question, and he wants her to answer him absolutely honestly. She says okay. He asks what stupid thing Charles did to cause his arrest or to go into hiding. She says he is not a stupid man. Ed says he was not too smart to get into such a mess that he had to fly sixteen hours. Sometimes he thinks that boy is incapable of doing anything except to make idealistic speeches and write novels that will never be published. He wonders if the disappearing act is a stunt to get publicity for his autobiography. She suggests that he go home, and she will find her husband by herself. He says he will be ready in a few minutes. She tells him to take his time, and she goes out. He says he still wants her to answer that question.
The car arrives at the embassy. Inside Putnam takes Ed and Beth into an office where they meet the US Ambassador (Richard Venture), Captain Tower, and Col. Clay. Ed shakes hands with them, and they all sit down. The Ambassador expresses his deep concern over his son’s disappearance, and he assures him that every element at their disposal has been and will continue to be used to facilitate his safe return. Ed says that is exactly what he hoped to hear. Consul Putnam reviews their extensive investigation by Captain Tower and Col. Clay. After analyzing all the data they have concluded that he must still be in hiding. Beth asks from what. She says they have been through this a hundred times. They know he is not in hiding because their neighbors saw him being picked up by a goon squad. Tower says that the military swears they don’t have him. Putnam says he has been to the carabinero stations, the Department of Investigations, and even the national stadium, and he is just not in their custody. The Ambassador says the hiding theory is the most viable. Beth says if he was in hiding, he would have called her and told her he was all right. Col. Clay says maybe he can’t because there have been a lot of civilian accidents and injuries. She scoffs, “No shit, Sherlock.” They hear gunshots. Ed says the colonel suggested that Charles might have been injured. He says he could be in a coma or be suffering from amnesia. He asks if they checked the hospitals. Putnam says he checked some of them. The Ambassador asks why not all of them. Putnam says it is difficult to get into some of those hospitals now. She translates that to mean that he can break a leg tripping over the dead bodies. Putnam says they only know where he isn’t. Tower says he may have more news for them after tonight. He is having dinner with the Junta’s chief of staff, Admiral Huidobro. Beth laughs about that one again and asks if he has not seen him yet. Tower says these people are very busy. She bets they are. Tower asks her if she has the list he asked for. Ed asks what list. Tower says he asked for a list of Charles’ friends so that he could extend the investigation. Ed says he will see that he gets the list, and he asks Beth who told him that several of Charles’ friends were contacted by the military after he was supposedly arrested. She says yes and that they all called the consulate. Putnam says he was not aware of any. She says he certainly was because she saw all the notes on the cards the day Shipler showed her the file cards. Putnam says he forgot that, and the Ambassador tells him to check that out in the next couple days. They will meet again to take stock of the situation.
On the way out Putnam orders a car and tells them if they need anything to let him or Captain Tower know, and he hands Ed a card. Ed says he will see that Tower gets that list in the morning, but Beth says they won’t get it from her. Putnam says he will work the phone logs and the hospitals. Ed thanks him, and they shake hands. Ed asks Beth what is the matter with her and why she was so rude in there. She responds, “Jesus Christ,” and he asks if she swears all the time. She says she is sorry. He asks why she is not cooperating with them. She replies she has been for two weeks. As they get into the car, she says she is “sick and tired of getting fucked around by these people.”
Charles is posing for Terry to take a picture, and he falls off the wall as a joke. He says they have to go because the last bus is at six. They race to the bus. He talks to a man at a station and tells her that all the truckers are on strike, and all the roads are blocked. She asks how they get back. He says they don’t, and Beth will go nuts. She asks about a train, and he says there might be one in the morning.
Charles hears a helicopter and gets out of bed. Terry asks what it is. He goes out on the balcony and sees the helicopter hovering very close and military vehicles in the street.
In a restaurant Terry is explaining to Ed that that was when the coup began with a 24-hour curfew that shut everything down. She says they stayed at the hotel, and Beth says that is when they met all the Americans. Ed asks if they were caught up by the coup also. Beth says then they met Babcock. Terry says they met him the next morning.
Charles and Terry come into the hotel restaurant for breakfast, and Andrew Babcock (Richard Bradford) speaks to Charles in Spanish, French, and English, saying he is from Paris, Texas. Charlie introduces himself and Terry to him. He asks Babcock what he is doing down here, and he says the Navy sent him down to do a job which has been done. Charles asks where he is stationed, and Babcock says his home base is Panama. He admits he is retired and on special assignment. Charles asks about Panama, and Babcock says it is nice and a good place to keep an eye on everything. He laughs and points out a man from Milgroup or US military group. Babcock gets up and says he is afraid there is not much news for someone with such big ears and a long nose. Charles tells Terry that is incredible because he could not believe that he told them all that.
Terry tells Ed that they decided to take notes. Ed asks on what, and Beth explains that those American officials were probably involved in the coup. Ed asks Terry if she believes that. Beth asks why he does not believe her, and Ed says she is married to Charles and that colors her perceptions. She says he is his damn father and asks what that does to his perceptions. She asks whose side he is on. They hear gunshots, and Ed asks Terry how she finally got home. She says Ray Tower drove them back, and he gave her his card. Beth tells her that Tower is having dinner again with Admiral Huidobro. Terry asks if he asked her for the list again, and Beth says of course. Ed asks how they got to know him so well. Terry says when Charlie disappeared, he was the first one they contacted. Beth says he invited them to his house to meet the Admiral, but Terry says the Admiral never showed up. They see a helicopter hovering nearby and hear gunfire. Terry gets up and tells Ed that it happened just like this. People look from the balcony at the shooting below. Beth says it was past curfew, and Tower insisted they spend the night.
Beth is taking a bath and calls to Terry; but Tower walks in with a drink and asks if she has everything she needs. She covers herself with a towel. She asks him to get out of there please. He says if he were her, he would quit living in the past. He advises her to think about her future. Beth walks in a robe and knocks on a door. Ray tells Beth she has to stay ahead of the power curve. Terry shouts for Ray to leave her alone, but Beth says it is her and to hurry up. Terry opens the door in time to let Beth in and lock it before Ray can come in.
In their hotel room Ed tells Beth and Terry that he will see them in the morning. Ed comes back and asks Beth why she took a bath at his house. She says she just took a bath because they were stuck there. He goes out and closes the door. Beth runs after him in the hall and asks where he is going. He tells her to lower her voice and says he is going out for a walk. She tells him he can’t do that because of the curfew; he’ll get shot. He asks her if Terry had an affair with Charles. Beth asks why he came here and goes into her room.
Beth and Ed are on a balcony talking to an old couple. Beth translates that the woman saw seven soldiers bring Charles out with boxes of things. Many other soldiers were waiting in an army truck. The man says it was a civilian truck, and there were no additional soldiers. Ed asks if she is sure it was Charles, and Beth says she is pretty sure.
Beth shows Ed where they were living but explains it is a shambles now. He says it is easy to be poor when you have a round-trip ticket in your pocket. She explains they live here because they want to be here. They have friends here and are not playing at being poor. She says this was one of the happiest homes she ever had, and Charles feels the same way. She sees a boy rapping on the window and tells him the duck is no longer here. He asks if he will be back with Charlie, and she says she hopes so. She tells Ed that his son is very popular around here. He reads the title, The Little Prince, and she says that is a great book. She says Charles used to read it to her when they first got married and says it is about a gentle person who is kind and thoughtful and tames a fox. She reads that only the heart can see the invisible things that are essential. He confirms the handwriting of Charles and reads the beginning of a story he wrote about a country that was very far north. Ed asks what the “Sunshine Grabber” means. She says it is a character in an animated film Charles was writing and shows him his drawing of the character. He says he seems so innocent and naïve. She asks if that is so bad. He asks if that is so good, and she says he raised him. Beth answers the door and introduces the neighbor Mrs. Duran who says the taxi is waiting.
In the taxi Mrs. Duran says a taxi came for her just when the soldiers put Beth’s husband in the truck. She says her taxi followed the same road as the truck, and she directs the taxi driver. They see soldiers and tanks. They come to the stadium. She says they drove through the big door into the stadium. Ed asks why her taxi took the same route as the truck. She says she lives just beyond the stadium. Ed is about to get out of the taxi when a car pulls so close he cannot get out. He gets angry, and Beth warns him that they could arrest her for just talking to them. The other driver motions for the taxi to move.
In the embassy Beth and Ed are met by Kate Newman who introduces herself as a reporter. She asks him if he is fed up with how the embassy has been handling this and if they are planning their own investigation. Beth sees Putnam, and Ed tells Kate he is not interested in challenging what they have done but in getting his son back. Kate asks Beth to get Ed to talk to her. Beth says okay and goes with Ed and Putnam. While they are standing, Tower says they back-tracked over their military leads, and they still deny having any knowledge of him. Col. Clay says they checked all the morgues for his fingerprints, and they came up negative. Ed asks if they checked their sources. Cole says Tower checked them himself, and Beth says then they must be “impeccable.” Putnam says they need more background information from Beth as to why they were living here. She says they were tired of seeing the world through the New York Times and wanted to travel. Putnam asks why Chile. She says they went all over Latin America and that this seemed the best. Putnam asks if she means politically, but she says in every way until their generals took over. Tower says they are not their generals. Putnam asks what work Charles was doing. She says he was writing various things and admits he wrote articles wrote for Fin. Putnam explains to Ed that it is a left-wing newspaper. Beth says it is not left-wing. He does not write articles but translates articles from the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. Clay says another theory is that his son was picked up by leftists posing as soldiers, and Tower adds that it may even have been his idea. Beth says he must be kidding her. Tower says he could have done it to make it look like they were arresting Americans. She says they are arresting Americans. She asks if Frank Teruggi and David Holloway don’t count. Ed says he heard about them and says they were released. Beth says they are seeing David tomorrow. Ed takes out a paper, and Tower asks if that is his list. Ed says no; they are things he wants them to check, and he hands it to Putnam who says he will do his best. He asks if that is all. Ed speaks frankly and says he knows that American embassies in these countries have agents involved with the police and military training programs. He assumes they have those programs here. He does not care how it is done or who runs it, but he would like it used to help find his son. Ed says that is all he has to say and starts to walk away with Beth. Putnam goes to him and asks about the reporter he was talking to before and advises him to hold off on that for a while. Ed says he will hold off.
Ed and Beth get in an elevator, and she says she can’t believe what he said about that police training program. He says calling a spade a spade can get a favorable response. She says it can also get you dead. He says that is her paranoia and Charles’s. He asks why she did not make the list of his friends. She asks if he is serious. He asks if he looks like he is joking. She says five minutes after she gives them that list to Tower, those people will probably be arrested by the military. As they leave the elevator, Ed says he did not know that Charles associated with criminals. She says they are not criminals. She says Charlie is not a failure, but he denies saying that. She says he implies it. He says if they had stayed where they belonged and paid attention to the basics, this never would have happened. She asks what the basics are—God, country, and Wall Street? He says she knows what he means. She knows he means God blessing their way of life. He lectures her that it is a very good way of life no matter how people like her and Charlie try to tear it down with their sloppy idealism. He can no longer abide the young people of our country living off their parents and the fat of the land and finding nothing better to do than to whine and complain. She asks if that is his image of Charlie. She says they are just two normal slightly confused people trying to be connected to the whole damn rotten enchilada. He unlocks his door, goes in, and slams the door in front of her. He sits down as she shouts an insult and suggests he go back to New York because he is just messing things up. She unlocks her door opposite and slams her door. She opens the door and calls to Ed and knocks on his door, saying she is sorry. She blames her own big mouth and goes back to her room.
David Holloway is typing when suddenly many soldiers come in with rifles and ask for Teruggi. He goes to another room and knocks calling Frank, opening the door. Frank sees the soldiers and comes out telling them to keep their hands off him. A soldier hits him in the stomach.
In the dark Frank and David are taken in a bus with soldiers and are led with others into the stadium. They stand in a line and see a naked man taken down a tunnel.
On a patio by a tennis court David is sitting with Beth, Ed, and two women telling them what happened. He says rumors were going around about torture and a specialist. Ed asks if he was tortured, and he says no. His hand is bandaged, and he says someone stepped on it.
David and Frank are sitting on the floor in a large room that is crowded with men who are sleeping on the floor. David asks if they are going to shoot them, and Frank says they are only trying to scare them, and he uses humor. Frank says they can’t kill them because their embassy would go bananas. Frank bets they will be out by morning. A soldier calls Teruggi and takes him from the room.
David says that was the last time he saw Frank, but they released him the next day. Ed says the State Department told him that Frank left here as soon as he got out. David says he talked to Frank’s parents, and they have not heard from him nor has anyone else. Ed says maybe he is in hiding too. David asks if he believes that, but Beth says she does not. Ed asks why she insist on rejecting that hope, and she says it is just not true. Ed asks if they were arrested because of the newspaper they worked on. David says they never asked him about it. Ed asks if Charles was active in it. He says sometimes Charles and they worked 18 hours a day to get it out. Ed is surprised, and Beth laughs. Ed asks what they got paid, and Beth says they got gratitude and respect. He says they don’t get hot dogs for respect, and she tells him not to start. Ed asks if he has looked for Charles here. David says he looked everywhere including the morgue. David says he gets the feeling they are never going to see him again.
Beth comes and tells Ed that she is ready. Ed comes out of the bedroom and asks a man what he is doing. He says he fixed the telephone. Ed says it works perfectly. The man says now it works better as he walks out. Beth says they fixed hers yesterday. Ed asks how he can be so brazen. She walks over to the telephone and talks to Tower in his electronic game room. It rings, and Ed answers it. He says the ambassador wants to see him in the morning.
Ed and Beth are waiting in an office. A secretary tells Ed he can go in now. Putnam comes out and tells Beth that this appointment is only for Mr. Horman. Ed says anything he is about to hear is also for her. The ambassador tells them both to come in and tells them to sit down. They ask if they found him, and the ambassador says no. Ed sits down while the others remain standing. The ambassador is leaning on the edge of his desk and says Ed wanted to talk about some political questions because he suggested there might be some military assistance program. He tells him that nothing like that exists in this country. Ed says he is not interested in the politics. He brought it up so that they would use every resource they have. The ambassador repeats that no such operation exists. Putnam says he got the clearance to visit those hospitals, but Ed asks about the stadium. Putnam says he is trying, but it is touchy. The ambassador tells him to handle it. Ed asks what he means by “touchy.” Ed says he knows these are bad times and that this is not fun for any of them. He believes they are doing their best, but he says they have all the machinery on their side. They have all the connections. He does not know Spanish, and his son may have been shot. Maybe he was tortured. He says he will take Charles back in any condition, and he will not make a stink in the newspapers. He will sign any release form and will absolve anyone. He just wants his boy back. He is his only child. He asks if they heard what he said, and the ambassador says he did. Ed feels bad. Beth says the meeting is over, and she leads him out of the room.
As they walk, Ed says he made a fool out of himself. She says he was great. Putnam follows them and tells him not to feel bad. He says there are so many cases, and they all seem important. Ed says this is the only one he cares about. Putnam says him and many others. He never saw so many cables from Washington and asks what kind of pull he has. Ed says he is an American citizen.
Ed is reading his Bible, and Dave McGeary (John Doolittle) from the consulate says he will be waiting in the car outside with Beth. Ed says he will be there in a moment.
Ed says he wants to get it over with, and they go outside in the rain under Dave’s umbrella. In the car Ed says he has a list of the hospitals, and McGeary asks what Christian Science is about. Ed says it is about faith in truth. Beth in the back seat taps Ed’s shoulder and signals to him that they are being followed.
McGeary shows the photo to hospital workers, and they check the names. They go down to the basement to check the “no names.” A man says they can look around. They walk through the large ward of people in beds. They try other hospitals. McGeary translates and says several of them are insane. They look out a window and see a body floating down the river.
They go outside, and Ed says he is going to walk. Beth says she is going with him, and McGeary says it is too dangerous. She catches up with Ed who says that Charles used to like to throw things into the ocean. She remembers the summer before they were married when they visited, and he and Elizabeth made them sleep in separate bedrooms. She talks about things Charles likes to do. She says he is a sex maniac, and Ed says he does not want to hear about their bedroom antics.
They watch a video of Charles talking to Frank about the socialist revolution. Ed asks why they made this film, and they say it was a party and was fun. Silvio tells Ed that his son is not what they told him. He says he is a hard worker but a political neophyte and is terrified of violence. Ed asks what is wrong with that. Silvio says he is not knocking him; he likes Charlie. Ed asks the film-maker Carlos why he went into hiding. He replies that he knew they would pick him up. Ed asks what he did. Silvio says Americans assume you have to do something wrong before you can be arrested. Ed asks if that is not the way it works, and he replies not here. A woman says some people here thought that Charlie was working for the CIA because he was always asking questions and taking notes. Silvio says he warned him, but he just laughed and took a note. The woman tells Beth that he will come back just as Carlos has.
Ed looks at cards and asks if there are any more. The officer says there is one card for every prisoner. If his card is not there, he was not here. Ed says he thought Frank Teruggi was released. The officer says he does not recall his name. They go down stairs.
The officer speaks with a microphone to the people in the stadium, and he hands it to Ed. He says he can’t and asks Beth to start it. She takes the microphone and calls to Charlie, saying she is here with his dad and the American consul. She asks if he can hear her, to come out. Ed talks to his son as he looks around. He mentions a trip they took from L. A. to New York. He sees a man running and says that is him. He runs over that way, but Beth says it is not him. The man says his father cannot come here, and he asks for some ice cream with his dinner.
Outside a crowded room Kate Newman talks to an official in the Italian embassy and says the man they must see is here. He says he is responsible for their lives. She asks if they look like assassins. He leads her with Ed and Beth outside. Ed asks how many refugees they have, and he says about 800 or 900. Paris (Martin Lasalle) tells them there were four of them in Lutz’s office. The prisoner was in the next room, and he had been roughed up in interrogation. Paris was not there, but his former friend was one of the four in the next room. He gives the name as Horseman and says it could have been Horman. He graduated from their police Academy in Washington. Kate asks him to tell them what General Lutz said about the prisoner. Paris says that Lutz said that the prisoner must disappear because he knew too much. He says only a few people were detained at the Ministry of Defense, and most of them were killed shortly after being interrogated. The others were sent to camps. Ed asks what happened to his son. Paris says he was driven back to the stadium. Ed asks how he could order the disappearance of an American. He and Beth say Paris did not do that. Paris says he was a police officer, but he is not a murderer. He worked with many different governments. He worked for the Junta for two weeks, and he calls them Nazis. In a few weeks they are destroying everything that was beautiful about this country. Kate asks if they can order an American disappeared without consulting the Americans first. Paris says they would not dare, and Ed asks how he can verify that; but Paris says he can’t.
As they are leaving, Ed asks what will happen to these people. Kate says they are safe now and will be deported. Ed asks about Paris, and she says he is not close to getting out of here. Ed asks why he talks. Kate says if he gets enough press, they won’t knock him off.
In the car Ed asks if they think the prisoner in the other room was Charles. He asks what he could have known that was so important. Beth says it was probably what he learned in Vina. He asks if she has his notes, and she says she does. They see soldiers on a jeep using a machine gun to shoot people. Ed tries to open the door and shouts for them to stop it. Beth and Kate try to restrain him, and Kate asks if he was trying to get them all killed. He says he is sorry and that he is getting awfully sick and tired of this shit. Kate says she saw his son do almost the same damn dumb thing.
In a room Beth is reading Charlie’s diary to Ed and Kate where Tower drove them back to Santiago. Kate asks her to go back to Babcock.
Babcock says the coup went very smoothly and that they are safe. Charles asks if it was planned far in advance, and Babcock indicates it was.
Beth reads about the next day in the lobby
Charlie introduces himself to Col. Sean Patrick (Jerry Hardin) and says they got stuck there by the coup. Patrick says they will be there a while. Charles asks what is happening in the capital. Patrick says the military is doing search and destroy missions just like in Vietnam, and there are bodies everywhere. Charles asks how long until the roads will be opened, and Patrick says if he will give him their room, he will keep them posted.
Beth reads that he is very concerned about her.
The next day in the lobby Charles picks up a phone and says he can complain. Babcock asks where they are going next. Terry says probably Bolivia, and Babcock says they will love it. Babcock says they have their problems too. Charles says then he will probably go there next. Babcock says he knows he is going there next. Charles asks Terry what a naval liaison would be doing in land-locked Bolivia. Charles asks Patrick for news, and he warns him not to be so anxious to be there because it is a real mess. He says he knows a place where they can radio their parents in the US that they are safe.
Patrick is driving a car, and Terry and Charles are in the front seat. Charles asks him how he feels about the coup, and Patrick replies very good. He was in Key West waiting for the Bay of Pigs, and he took an advanced scuba course for that invasion. He says if Kennedy had provided decent air cover and proper military support there, they would not be having these problems here.
Beth reads that they arrived at the home of Paul Baker where Naval Mission radio was installed. Ed says he received a cable through Panama on September 14. Beth reads that after radioing his dad, they got a ride with Captain Tower. On the next day Patrick drove them to his house for a barbecue.
Charles is invited to stay there, but he says no thanks. He asks Patrick if he knows the Chilean military, and he says he took Admiral Huidobro to the United States to buy arms last July. He says the truck drivers are the real heroes of this one. A man tells Patrick that Babcock wants to talk to him. Charles noted that because they are Americans, these people assume they support whatever the United States wants to do. Patrick warns Charles about going because the rebels have Tower as number two on their hit list. Patrick says he would not ride with him, but Charles says he wants to see his wife. Ray Tower comes in, and Patrick introduces him to Charles.
Kate says the boss of Milgroup and the senior political officer were both in Vina when the coup started. She says most people believe the coup was prepared in Vina. She says they might have looked at Charlie’s record. If they learned he worked for Fin, they might have decided he was worth watching. Beth asks if she believes that is what happened. Kate says it seems possible, and Ed says it does not look so good.
McGeary brings a man to take Ed and Beth into a cold hallway with many dead bodies. He tells them these have all been identified. They go into two more rooms where those bodies have also been identified. In the last room the names are yet to be determined. They walk among the bodies looking. Beth calls Ed and says it is Frank Teruggi. McGeary tells her to go. She cries and says she is not leaving, and Ed tells McGeary he heard what she said.
Beth and Ed wait in a room while Putnam asks the officers why the body was not discovered for so long. Ed holds her hands and asks what sort of world this is. She says he sounds just like Charlie. Putnam comes over and tells them that it appears that Teruggi was released from the stadium and then was found by the carabineros later that night dead on the street. Ed asks why the State Department told him that he had left the country. Putnam says it must have been an immigration screw-up. Ed says he is not going to leave Chile until he finds his son alive or dead.
Ed is lying on his bed and talking on the phone about how every turn seems to lead them back to the beginning. He tells Elizabeth they are going in circles. He says Beth is all right. He blesses her and hangs up. He feels an earthquake and goes out in the hall where he sees Beth who tells him not to take the elevator. They go down the stairs. They are told not to go outside because of the curfew, and shots are heard. They are told to go back to their rooms. Ed suggests they get a drink, and they toast to life. Ed says he owes her an apology. He admits he sold both of them short and wonders if it was because he is getting old. She asks him to sit by her. He says in the past week he feels like his heart was torn out of him. He says he feels guilty. She says Charles said that guilt like fear is given to us for survival, not destruction. He nods and tells her she is one of the most courageous people he has ever met. She thanks him and asks if he thinks he is dead. Ed says he does not. She asks if that is how he really feels. He says he talked to Elizabeth who advised them to contact Peter Cook who runs the Ford Foundation here. She asks if she can skip that one. He says she and Charlie loved each other very much. She nods.
In the Ford Foundation office the secretary tells Ed that Mr. Cook is out of the country until Monday. A woman comes out of the office and realizes he is Mr. Horman. She invites him to talk to her, and Peter Chemin appears and asks him to come in. The two men sit at the corner of the conference table. Peter says he has a friend who has good contacts with the military. He thinks his son was executed in the stadium on September 19. Ed says that was nearly a month ago. Ed asks if he could speak to his friend or his contact. Peter says no because these are dangerous times. Ed says they can tie his hands and blindfold him. Peter says he is sorry; he can’t do that. He says he probably should not have told him; this is a terrible tragedy. Ed asks for a name. He says he understands and thanks him for telling him, and he goes out.
In the embassy Putnam tells Ed that the ambassador has been trying to reach him all morning. Putnam says he thinks they may have good news for him. Ed stops and asks what that would be—that his son was executed in the stadium three days after his arrest? Putnam asks who told him that.
Ed enters the office, and the ambassador introduces him to Samuel Cross, a journalist with good access to left-wing circles down here. Cross says he believes that his son is alive and well. He says a man told him that he secured credentials for three left-wingers to leave Santiago and that one of them was for his son. Ed asks where he is. Cross says he is in the north and should be out of the country next week. Ed asks if he can contact him. Cross says no, but he may be in New York before he is. Ed asks the ambassador to please get him out of here so that he can speak to the two of them alone. Putnam says Ed has new information, and he will check it out right away. Ed tells him to call General Lutz. Ed says he has reason to believe that his son was killed by the military, and Tower asks where he heard that. Ed says he does not think they would dare do that unless an American co-signed a kill order. Tower asks if that is a hell of a statement considering that they are here to protect American citizens. The ambassador says this mission is doing everything humanly possible to locate his son. Ed thinks they knew he was dead from the start. Tower asks if they knew, why they would not tell him. Ed says that is what he is going to find out. Tower asks why they would want him dead. Ed says probably because he knew of the American involvement in the coup. The ambassador says they are not involved and that their position has been completely neutral. Ed says that is a bald-faced lie. He asks how he can say that when they have military officers all over Vina del Mar. The ambassador says Ed is harboring some misconception about their role here. Ed asks what their role here is besides endorsing a regime that murders thousands of human beings. The ambassador tries to level with him by noting that had he not been personally involved in this, he would be sitting at home oblivious to all this. The ambassador says this mission is pledged to American interests, but Ed says not his. The ambassador says there are more than 3,000 Americans businesses here, and those are American interests. The ambassador says he is concerned with preserving a way of life. Ed looks out the window and says maybe that is why there is nobody out there. Ed walks to the door, and Tower says his kid was a snoop who poked his nose in a lot of dangerous places where he didn’t belong. He asks what if he went to New York and started interfering with the mafia and ended up dead in the East River, and his relatives complained to the police because they did not protect him. He asks if they would have much of a case. He says when you play with fire, you get burned. Ed walks out.
Ed goes into the hotel and meets Beth with two men. Inspector Rojas says he has instructions to bring her to headquarters for interrogation. Ed takes her to a nearby phone, and he asks for the American consulate. She asks what is wrong, and he says nothing. Ed asks to speak to Consul Putnam. He tells him Inspector Rojas is here, and Ed gives the phone to Rojas. He says he will do as he says. Ed takes the phone and asks why. He hangs up and tells Beth he is going with her.
In an office Rojas asks questions of Beth and types the answers in regard to when Charles was arrested. Ed is told that he has a call, and he goes to the phone. Putnam tells him that he was right. They rechecked the morgue fingerprints and got a positive identification. He says he was buried in a wall. He says that is common down here. He was killed in the stadium. Ed says goodbye and hangs up. Ed while crying goes back to Beth and tells her they are going home. She says she loves him, and they hug.
Ed is looking at drawings Charles made and saves papers he wrote. Beth gathers a photo and other things. Ed tells McGeary that he wants him to contact the military and have them return all the other things that were stolen from this house. McGeary says that is not realistic, and Ed tells him to get every drawing and paper. McGeary says he will try.
Beth signs a paper and asks Putnam when the body will be sent home. He says in a few days. McGeary asks about the shipping charges. McGeary says it comes to $931.14 with the taxes. She asks if they want it now, and Putnam says that is not necessary. Ed says they will take care of it. He pays for the breakfast because he wants to get rid of his money. They are at the airport, and Kate sees them and says she is going to La Paz. Ed says that is where Babcock said he was going next. He thanks her for her help and shakes her hand. Beth and Ed show their tickets and pass through as he says no more special privileges. Putnam wishes there is something he could say or do. Ed says he is going to sue him and Tower and the ambassador and everyone who let that boy die. They will make it so hot for him he will wish he was stationed at the Antarctic. Putnam says he guesses that is his privilege. Ed says that is his right. He thanks God they live in a country where they can still put people like them in jail. Ed and Beth walk down the corridor.
Ed Horman filed suits against eleven people including Henry Kissinger for complicity and negligence in the death of his son. The body was not returned for seven months, making an accurate autopsy impossible. After years of litigation the information needed to prove complicity remained classified as state secrets, and the suit was dismissed.
This true story exposes the secret involvement in the fascist coup in Chile in 1973 by depicting the story of American citizens who were arrested and killed. A conservative American who wants to find his wayward son undergoes a transformation of consciousness as he realizes that his son and his wife are courageous and honest while the Americans in the State Department are complicit in the crimes of the Chilean military and government.