In 1973, U.S. businessman Ed Horman (Jack Lemmon) arrives in Chile to look for his son, Charles (John Shea), a politically left-leaning journalist who disappeared during a military coup. Charles’ wife, Beth (Sissy Spacek), has been looking for some time, but her requests for help from the U.S. consulate have thus far produced few results. As Ed and Beth try to figure out what really happened to Charles, Ed realizes that the American officials may know more than they’re telling.
One U.S. diplomat is polite and friendly but constantly lies to him; a high-ranking American military attache is blunt and tells Ed that whatever happened to Charlie was his own fault, noting “You play with fire, you get burned.” Together, he and Beth learn that the U.S. had many interests in the country that have been enhanced by the coup and its aftermath and that many military officials aided Pinochet in the coup. As Ed becomes disillusioned with the American government, he comes to respect the work Beth and Charlie were doing and he and Beth reconcile. When they receive proof that Charlie was murdered by the junta and that the U.S. let it happen, he tells the embassy officials “I just thank God we live in a country where we can still put people like you in jail!”