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Charles Heller (John Savage) is a brilliant mathematician and computer science technician who works for the CIA as a "cipher" – a codebreaker. Privy to CIA secrets by the nature of his work, he lives a mundane and excitement-free life. Until now. Terrorists seize the American Consulate in Munich Germany, demanding the release of terrorist prisoners. When they start to execute their hostages, Heller’s fiancée Sarah is murdered. Heller’s grief is unbearable. Through his position in the CIA, he learns that the Agency knows where in Czechoslovakia the terrorists are hiding – but has no plans to pursue them. Desperate to assuage his grief, Heller learns that Sarah’s father, a Holocaust survivor, tracked down and killed the Nazi doctor who sent his first wife and their children to the gas chamber. He understands he has to take revenge into his own hands. Heller amasses information showing the CIA’s corruption and blackmails the Agency director with it. He demands to be trained by CIA experts as an assassin and to be sent into Czechoslovakia to kill the terrorists. In Prague, Charlie finds Elizabeth, a Czech woman who works for the CIA. Together they hunt the terrorists, among whom is their leader Horst Schrager. But when the CIA discovers Heller’s blackmail material stashed in a video arcade game, they send in a team to kill him. It is precisely Heller’s lack of training – his status as an "amateur" that gets him so far through the lethal complexities of subterfuge and murder. When he finally confronts his enemy in the film’s gripping climax, Schrager tells him "If you had done it by the book, you’d be dead already."

Director(s): Charles Jarrott
Cast: Nicholas Campbell, George Coe, Arthur Hill, Marthe Keller, John Marley, Christopher Plummer, John Savage
Run Time: 2h 0min
Cinema Date: 1981
Distributor: 20th Century Fox