The Chairman

Watch The Chairman

"If the Red Chinese don't kill him... a computer in London will!"
  • M/PG
  • 1969
  • 1 hr 38 min
  • 5.6  (1,400)

The Chairman is a suspenseful political thriller film from 1969, directed by J. Lee Thompson and starring Gregory Peck, Anne Heywood and Arthur Hill in lead roles. The movie is based on the 1958 novel, "The Chairman" by Jay Richard Kennedy. The story is set during the height of the Cold War, with the United States and China facing off against each other. When the Communist Party of China invites a group of American scientists to participate in the World Agricultural Conference in Beijing, Dr. John Hathaway (played by Peck), the Chairman of the U.S. delegation, is chosen to lead the team. Hathaway is a renowned agricultural expert and a man of great integrity, but his doubts and fears about the mission start to grow as soon as he arrives in Beijing.

Hathaway's mission is ostensibly to help China develop a new type of wheat that can grow in the harsh conditions of the Gobi Desert. However, as Hathaway soon discovers, the Chinese have other, more sinister intentions. Hathaway is secretly welcomed by the Chinese intelligence agency, where he is informed that they have kidnapped one of his team members, Professor John Matthews (played by Hill), who is being held hostage as a bargaining chip to ensure that Hathaway follows their bidding. The Chinese want Hathaway to steal a secret formula for the United States' most devastating biological weapon- a strain of bacteria that could wipe out entire populations- in exchange for his colleague's life.

What follows is a cat and mouse game, as Hathaway tries to find a way to rescue Matthews and get the wheat formula without betraying his country's national security or his own principles. He faces both physical and psychological pressure from the Chinese, who constantly test his loyalty and his will, as well as from his own team members- some of whom, he suspects, may be working for the Chinese.

Despite the tense situation and dangerous, high-stakes conflict between nations, the Chairman manages to weave in a love story. Anne Heywood plays the character of Dr. Siu Lan, a beautiful Chinese translator who becomes Hathaway's ally and confidant. Siu Lan and Hathaway form a strong bond, but their relationship is complicated by the fact that both are citizens of different countries with different ideologies, and that Siu Lan is, at times, put in the position of having to spy on Hathaway.

The cinematography in the movie is excellent, with the vast landscapes and intricacies of Beijing and the Gobi Desert looking beautiful and realistic on the screen. The score is also very impressive, with a haunting and emotional soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith that enhances the tension and suspense of the film.

The Chairman was a groundbreaking movie for its time, dealing with issues of loyalty, espionage, and international conflict in a way that was both thrilling and thought-provoking. The movie's themes are still relevant today, with questions about how far we are willing to go for our countries and what ethical compromises we are willing to make in the name of national security still pressing issues in contemporary society. The film resonates with audiences who enjoy political and espionage thrillers and who are interested in exploring questions about personal integrity, political commitment, and social responsibility.

Overall, The Chairman is a gripping thriller that manages to weave in a deep and emotional love story, while also exploring larger questions about international relations and ethical decision-making. The performances by the actors are first-rate, and the direction, cinematography, and score all come together to make a compelling and suspenseful movie. While the film is set during the height of the Cold War, its themes and broader messages are still relevant and engaging to audiences today.

The Chairman
The Chairman doesn't appear to be available from any streaming services.
Add this movie to your Watchlist to get notified when it's available.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 38 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    5.6  (1,400)