The events in this film take place during the House Un-American Activities Committee's investigations into communists and communist sympathisers in the United States during the post-War Period.
When Emily Crane ( McGillis), who is considered by the Committee to be an unfriendly witness , loses her job, she soon manages to find a small employment as reader to a retired lady (Jessica Tandy), near whose house she discovers a group of German-speaking individuals, who, she later finds out, are Nazi war criminals. She endangers her own safety, by attempting to help a young German boy, who is suddenly murdered, and incurs the enmity of the Committee's chairman, the sinister, Ray Salwen (The multi-talented Mandy Patinkin, recently lost to viewers of " Criminal Minds").
The FBI agent, who is looking into Emily's situation with some sympathy and who gradually becomes involved with her, is played by that invariably under-rated actor, Jeff Daniels. The two leads play their roles almost to perfection, and the movie draws powerful strength from a brilliant direction by the late great Peter Yates.