Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Synopsis:

CIA employee Joseph Turner (Robert Redford, The Sting) returns to work after picking up lunch and finds all his co-workers dead. He soon realizes that he is in great danger and flees. Turner holds professional photographer Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway, Network) hostage in her apartment as he tries to figure out his next move.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Condor is an amateur. He’s lost, unpredictable, perhaps even sentimental.”

Conspiracy thrillers were a dime a dozen in the 1970s, a reflection of society’s increasingly jaded view of life. These types of movies fell out of favor with audiences in the 1980s, but the concept of the “Deep State” has returned in recent years with a vengeance. That’s probably why Three Days of the Condor doesn’t look dated at all — the lingo, the clothes and hair styles are different, but this intense spy thriller looks as fresh as ever.

Director Sidney Pollack’s (Tootsie) sardonic thriller captures quite well the idea of government as an anathema. It’s not on the level of The Conversation (1974), Chinatown (1974), The Parallax View (1974) or Winter Kills (1979), but it’s nicely done — Three Days of the Condor is a perfect embodiment of the cynical Watergate era.

There are a few things that prevent the movie from achieving greatness, though. Robert Redford’s Hitchcockian hero is not well-defined and the actor, whom I have always found a bit cold and bland, fails to convey the proper hysteria necessary to allow the viewer to connect with him on an emotional level.

I also didn’t buy into the romantic subplot. I never believed for a second that a woman, played by Faye Dunaway, could fall in love with her kidnapper in a matter of a few hours. Dunaway allows us to see her vulnerable side and that helps, but she’s playing a needless character; aside from providing a love interest in the movie, Dunaway’s character serves no purpose at all and could have been easily eliminated.

But Three Days of the Condor was skillfully directed by Pollack from a fine screenplay by Lorenzo Semple Jr. (Papillon) and David Rayfiel (The Firm) based on the novel Six Days of the Condor by James Grady. Pollack navigates through the “spy games” with clock-like precision. It was slickly shot by Owen Roizman (The French Connection). The creepy music score by Dave Grusin (On Golden Pond) complements the narrative.

The attractive leads are supported by a superb cast. Cliff Robertson (Charly) plays a CIA supervisor, John Houseman (The Paper Chase) is a CIA senior official, and the great Max Von Sydow (The Exorcist) is chillingly effective as a heartless hit-man. Tina Chen (The Hawaiians) has a small role as Redford’s co-worker.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Three Days of the Condor‘s plot stretches credulity, but if you don’t take the movie too seriously there is a good chance that you’ll enjoy this glossy and entertaining thriller with a fantastic cast. Needless to say, I highly recommend it to people who love conspiracy and/or spy thrillers. Color, 117 minutes, Rated R.

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