Dopo un'esperienza pubblicitaria, esordisce con Triple echo (1973),
storia di una contadina (Glenda Jackson) che nasconde una recluta di cui è innamorata e di cui si
innamora, credendolo una donna, anche un soldato, seguito da Stardust (1974), parafrasi della
carriera tragica di tanti divi del Rock. Dopo un thriller volgare, The squeeze (1977), sul
rapimento di una donna per ricattare suo marito, una macchinosa incursione nella vita privata di
Agatha (1979) Christie (un ironico giornalista americano scopre dove è scomparsa),
una biografia di Loretta Lynn (Coal miner's daughter, 80, con scene semi-documentarie di
vita negli Appal...), Apted dirige la commedia sentimentale Continental Divide (1981), in cui
una studiosa di aquile e un giornalista (Belushi), si innamorano fra litigi e separazioni, Gorky
Park (1983), vicenda giallo poliziesca con sfumature politiche ambientata a mosca, First
Born (1984), dramma domestico in cui un ragazzo riesce a dividere la madre da un vile amante,
Kipperbang (1985), maturazione di un adolescente nell'ambiente scolastico, Critical
Condition (1986) farsa frenetica e caotica Gorillas in the Mist (1988), una ricercatrice
ossessionata dai gorilla.
Gorky Park (1983), from a novel by Martin Cruz Smith, is a noir thriller set in the oppressive environment of the Soviet Union.
Arkady sees an American on the scene of the crime and chases him. In his apartment, Arkady finds a newspaper article on a Russian woman who escorted an American business man, Jack Osborne (Lee Marvin), and the picture of a young man. Arkady confronts the man and finds out that Kirwill is a New York detective, investiganting the death of his brother, one of the three people killed in the park. Arkady offers cooperation but Kirwill refuses to cooperate with him.
Later, Arkady is introduced by his boss to Osborne, who happens to be a good friend of the Soviet Union.
With help from a physician specializing in rebuilding bodies, Arkady finds out the identity of the dead people and, from the secret-service files, finds out that they were friends of Irina, but Irina still refuses to cooperate because she thinks that they escaped to the West and thinks that Arkady merely wants to frame her (she was expelled from university for her pro-democracy stand). In vain Arkady tries to convince her that they are dead, probably killed by the people who promised to smuggle them out, and that she may now be in danger of being the next victim.
Arkady unveils evidence that Jack Osborne knew the three victims and a witness tells him of a chest that Jack Osborn hid at his place, but the witness and the police officer that go to recover the chest are both shot dead. Arkady is convinced that the KGB is behind all of this and that the three were killed after helping prepare a chest of precious icons for Jack Osborne.
Irina is attacked by two men, Arkady save her life and the American detective saves his life. They finally join forces to fight the obscure power, and Arkady and Irina fall in love. Arkady has a mystery to solve: on the victims there was blood of chicken and fish. Arkady and the American solve the mystery when they find a room used for sables: the three victims were helping Jack Obsborne smuggle sables to the West.
Arkady and the American catch Arkady's boss and Jack Osborne in cahoots. Osborne is leaving for Sweden and Arkady confronts the boss, who admits that he assigns the case to him in order to put pressure on Osborne who was an unreliable partner. The boss dies trying to kill Arkady.
The KGB asks Arkady to help kill Osborne in return for Irina's freedom, but he has to come back. In Sweden Arkady meets Osborne but Osborne has a surprise for him: Irina has sold himself to him (the killer of her friends) in exchange for her freedom and... Arkady's freedom. Everybody is corrupt, even his boss, even Irina. Alone with Irina, Osborne explodes in a scene of jealousy calling her a "whore" before she has a chance to explain that she has done it also for him. Osborne then makes an offer to Arkady as well: help him with the sables in return for Irina. Arkady accepts, but not really: Arkady tells the whole story to the American detective (who has followed them to Sweden) and they prepare an ambush. In the final shootout, after Osborne has found the American detective dead, the Soviet agents are killed by Osborne and Osborne is killed by Irina. Irina thinks that they are now free, but Osborne has made a promise to the KGB and knows that the KGB would haunt them forever, so he goes back.
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