The Amateur (1981) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A researcher for the CIA who convinces his superiors to send him to the eastern bloc in order to avenge the murder of his wife by enemy agents discovers a web of deception underneath his wife's death.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The movie starts off with a Baader-Meinhof Group-type terrorist group taking command of the American embassy in West Germany with a goal of getting jailed terrorists released. During a standoff between police forces and the terrorists, the group leader (Horst Schraeger) executes a young American woman (Sarah Kaplan) whilst the newscameras film it all. Schraeger demands (and gets) bussed to freedom behind the Iron Curtain and releases all the hostages.

    Sarah's fiance, CIA cryptographer Charles Heller is devastated when he sees her die on the TV. At Sarah's gravesite, he meets her father, Sam - an immigrant who spent time in a Nazi death camp, losing his entire family there.

    Kaplan tells Heller that he created a ritual in his mind, whereby he strangles the Nazi responsible for selecting his family for death. He tells Heller that he tracked down this Nazi and lived out the ritual. Heller says, "But it didn't bring your family back to life." Kaplan exclaims, "No! It brought ME back to life!!!"

    Heller then sets out to avenge his fiance's death, using much the same ritual.

    Using his computer access at the CIA, he digs up information about missions that the CIA would rather not have see the light of day. He uses this information to blackmail the CIA into training him as an assassin, finding the exact whereabouts of Schraeger (and his compadres), and putting him behind the Iron Curtain so that he might kill them all.

    Along the way, Heller meets an interesting adversary, and a woman, whom he falls in love with - all while he ruthlessly hunts for Schraeger and his terrorist buddies.

    The plot twists and turns quite a bit, and you might have to view it more than once to fully grasp all that is going on, because it is well-populated with characters.

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