A well-recognised TV journalist and celebrity, John Tanner (Rutger Hauer), is approached by a CIA agent named Lawrence Fassett (John Hurt). The two meet in secret, and agent Lawrence reveals dark details about some of Tanner’s close friends. After watching various video tapes and listening to some conversations, Tanner is convinced that his closest friends are, in fact, part of a major conspiracy and may be Soviet Agents that are part of a secret network named Omega.
Once a year, Tanner meets up with his friends and their partners at his home in a yearly retreat known as The Osterman Weekend. Agent Lawrence suggests that Tanner’s home should be monitored during the next Osterman Weekend (which is occurring soon) so the CIA can closely observe. Now, Tanner must keep his cool and pretend as if everything is normal so the truth can be found. Can Tanner complete the task that’s been asked of him?
Based on the best-selling novel from writer Robert Ludlum, The Osterman Weekend is best described as a thriller. There’s a pleasing mystery unravelled here, and I love the concept of Tanner being told that his closest friends may be traitors working for a secret group. Naturally, Tanner struggles to accept this news about his friends, but over a period, Tanner will find there is far more to know when it comes to the actual truth.
While the film has a fun introduction and mystery, The Osterman Weekend is extremely clunky in many areas, particularly its storytelling. There’s lots of spoken dialogue and political babble, which will fly over a few audiences when viewing for the first time. I’ll admit I went back and watched some scenes (including the beginning) to gain a stronger understanding of all the details to more firmly grasp the plot. While there is an unpredictable reveal, it’s quite baffling to understand as key aspects are not clearly explained. In the end, The Osterman Weekend carries a great concept but has ingredients that become far too complex or overloaded while key details are missing from the final cut.
For the most part, performances are fine, with Rutger Hauer, John Hurt, and Craig T. Nelson delivering several solid moments. Some of the actors, including Dennis Hopper or Chris Sarandon, feel underused. The score by Lalo Schifrin is strongly ’80s in sound, including the sound of a sexy saxophone and can sometimes feel extremely corny.
Overall, what begins as a fun mystery becomes far more complex, messy, and even vague with its conclusion and twist. It’s impossible not to watch this film without questioning what occurred behind the scenes. Some moments are so complex that repeat viewing may even be required as there’s plenty of babble about politics and secret organisations. The film includes a few strong moments in performances from actors Rutger Hauer, John Hurt and Craig. T Nelson. Sadly, some performances feel underused, including from actor Dennis Hopper. Given this is based on a novel by Robert Ludlum, I truly wished this was something far greater than the end results. Perhaps one day another director will attempt a remake and give the storyline more justice and clarity.