This is a TV movie from the 1980s that surprisingly takes some interesting approaches to the subject of terrorism.
Of course, this was before 9-11, when terrorism meant German radicals! As the movie begins, terrorists kidnap the crew of a commercial airliner – including novice flight attendant Karen Hobart (played by Helen Patton).
Karen's parents are Paul and Barbara Hobart, played by Brian Dennehy (F/X) and Joanna Cassidy (Bladerunner). Paul is a high school basketball coach who spent some time in the army and is sometimes too tough on his athletes; Barbara is his supporting wife.
Knowing that the U.S. is unwilling to negotiate with terrorists, the Hobarts go to Germany to become involved directly. They encounter arrogant embassy officials, indifferent police, a reporter looking for his big break (Ron Silver in an early role), and a shady Brit (played by Anthony Valentine) who says he's a counter-terrorism expert and can help them for a price. It's not clear who, if anyone, the Hobarts can trust…
Meanwhile, the terrorists are making demands and killing hostages. Wolfgang Donner is the zealot leader (played by Christoph M. Ohrt), striving to undermine society through acts of terrorism; Ingrid Kleist (played by Claudia Matschulla) is his main henchwoman; his brother Albert Donner (played by Arnfried Lerche) may be an innocent bookseller, or maybe not…
As the movie tagline says, "how far is one man prepared to go for his only child… And how far is TOO far?" Will Paul Hobart go after the terrorists himself? Will he cooperate with everything the 'experts' want him to do? Will Barbara Hobart support her husband if he risks everything?
This is not the typical safe, bland style of TV movie. The Hobarts, despite being depicted as a loving couple, are divided about what to do. Government figures are uncaring or deceptive. The terrorists are cold-blooded zealots. The concept of not negotiating with terrorists is ridiculed throughout the movie. And how far is Paul Hobart willing to go? Kidnapping? Disfigurement? Torture? The movie's conclusion is intended to leave you thinking.
There's even an incident when Paul Hobart gets information out of a lesbian couple by forcing a woman's head into a fish tank. Yes, it's kind of water-boarding, and the movie lets the viewer decide if that's OK or a sign that Hobart has gone too far.
The movie was filmed in Germany, with much of the cast being German, which adds to the authenticity. Dennehy and Cassidy as the couple were uninspiring, but Dennehy gets better in the action sequences and Cassidy is convincing in her breakdown. Christoph and Claudia are excellent as terrorists, while Arnfried is too clownish in the difficult role of the terrorist's nerdy brother. Valentine is excellent as the counter-terrorism expert, except that he's too short – Dennehy looms over him. They look comical when shown together.
It's not a perfect movie. The pacing is slow, and it's more of a detective/suspense movie until the ending, when there's finally some action. The reader is left to draw his own conclusions as to who was manipulating whom.
Can you game it? You could certainly play out the storming of the terrorist hide-out at the end, though it would probably work best as a cooperative game with the terrorists being rules-driven.
I enjoyed the movie, and recommend it (but not for children).