johnlink ranks THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975)

A year before making ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, Robert Redford starred in the political/spy/paranoia thriller THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR. With the additional distinction of being directed by frequent collaborator Sydney Pollack, there are only so many Redford espionage thrillers out there to find.


I watched THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975) on 5.17.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

CIA analyst Joseph Turner (Robert Redford) is a smart guy who caught something he shouldn’t have. A professional team of villains led by Joubert (Max Von Sydow) attack Turner’s team. On the run, Turner ends up forcing and (eventually) eliciting the aide of Kathy (Faye Dunaway) as he tries to discern the honesty and/or threat of his own boss Higgins (Cliff Robertson).

Made on the heels of Watergate, this is a political thriller which paints the American government as equal parts evil and incompetent. Ironically, this 1975 film is more current than it could have known (With lines like “There is a CIA within the CIA!”). The thrust of the villainy ultimately has to do with oil. Someone in this film states ” It’s simple economics. Today it’s oil, right? In ten or fifteen years, food. Plutonium. Maybe even sooner. Now, what do you think the people are gonna want us to do then?” The United States had suffered an oil crisis in 1973, seeing the price of a barrel of oil quadruple (though we would kill for the higher priced $12 a barrel today), and THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR was cashing in on the extemporaneousness of it all. The film still works today, even if we think it quaint this idea of oil being a problem which would eventually be solved.

But that is a digression.

THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR is an exceptional suspense film. Redford brings his expected persona. Dunaway starts off as a victim and ultimately becomes a female character which escapes the cliche of kidnappee. After a silly love scene filled with standard cuts and saxophone music, Dunaway proceeds to steal a whole bunch of scenes as she helps the hero infiltrate his old workplace. Equally up to the task is villain turned philosopher Joubert. Sydow lets the role simmer in standard villain apathy for awhile before awakening the audience to a nuanced character who serves as the id of the government. He will kill anyone gladly. His code is moral, even as it is driven by power.

Sydney Pollack directs this film with vigor. He is aggressive in his progression, eschewing a 70s slow mentality for a more 90s feeling pace. He drives the film forward with only a few digressions. But those digressions, especially the development of the Joseph/Kathy relationship, is what makes this an excellent film.

The dialogue in this snaps. It has been described as  neo-Hitchocock. In fact, is it more neo-noir. There is a careful craft to the dialogue that drives the characters forward. This is a lesser film if it is about plot. Instead, it is about character right up to the final ambiguous and dangerous last moment.

This is a wonderful film. It may be lumped in with the paranoia films of the 1970s, but it also deserves credit as an excellent example of entertaining filmmaking. THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR is a film worth getting and owning immediately.




FINAL SCORE: 8.5 out of 10



~ by johnlink00 on May 18, 2014.

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