The Conversation - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Conversation Reviews

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January 18, 2018
More proof of how great the 70s were for movies. First, Hackman is SPECTACULAR. His Harry Caul is a nuanced, incredibly human performance (and is apparently Hackman's own favorite in his career). The technological story elements are surprisingly current in 2018; much of the suspense in this thriller comes from the way Harry decodes the garbled audio from the surveillance conducted in the opening scene, and it retains a great, authentic feel decades later (I'm a tech who works with audio and it didn't ring false for me at all).

Hackman isn't the only great performance; Harrison Ford is excellent as Assistant to "The Director", slick and menacing. Cindy Williams (yes, THAT Cindy Williams) is also excellent as one of Harry's surveillance subjects.

The 70s were an amazing decade for cinema, throwing off the shackles of the Hayes Code and giving unprecedented fertile ground for innovative directors. The Conversation stands as one of the best examples of what a sharp young director could do.
November 27, 2017
I've never really been able to connect with this film, I've watched it a few times and I almost want to like it more than I actually do in practice. The idea is great, delving deep into the paranoia of the time fresh on the heels of the Watergate Scandal. Hackman is brilliant as well, but whether it's the pacing or whether it's the central story I never really get hooked. It may well just be me though and is definitely still worth seeking out if you've never watched it.
½ November 9, 2017
Francis Ford Coppola's suspenseful thriller following a surveillance expert's growing suspicion piecing together recordings of an assignment emerges as a pensive observation on the paranoia technology conjures in our closely guarded seclusion.
August 20, 2017
No Double Negatives in this conversation.
August 16, 2017
Not at all what I thought it was gonna be, The Conversation is an excellent case study of a schizoid paranoiac named Harry Caul who is, ultimately, really a bad person. What comes off at first as someone who simply prefers his privacy (especially in light of what he knows about surveillance) turns into someone who is willing to brazenly destroy what few relationships he maintains just to keep them at two-arms length. There's a plot that I don't need to describe - as it should be witnessed on its own - but truly the focus is on how the damaged Harry *interprets* what's happening, rather than what actually is, because the audience get very little in the way of an omniscient perspective, rather, our understanding is filtered through the unreliable narrator and protagonist. Really one of the best films of the 70s, The Conversation will make you feel icky and a little morose, but is absolutely fascinating to watch.
August 1, 2017
Huge 70's film with a Gene Hackman in form and some marvelous directing. Harry Caul, a secretive surveillance expert, is spying on some people for someone. He listens to the tapes that he recorded and makes the fuzzy takes audible. This demands a great deal of work and when he has to deliver the tapes he is not sure if it's the right thing to do. He knows what's up and he's afraid that his work might end up killing the people he's been tracking. This gives hime some enemies, but his persona and mind is still his greatest enemy.

There are some mindpleasing scenes here, like the long party scene and the late scene in Harry's appartment. The conversation itself is repeated and as a viewer you know the words almost as good as our main guy. The acing is ace and this is a smart film with many layers. Obvious enemies, friends turning enemies, girls being girls making our man wonder about a whole lot of things. It's a horror film disguised in a crime mystery, rearly thrilling but with both frightening and intense scenes. The looser-look, with the stash, raincoat and sweaty shirts was supposedly hard for Gene to manage, but he nailed it. He claimed it's his favorite film he's done, the same is said about Coppola.

This is all about communication and handling things that are thrown at you. It's intelligent, but sadly it's not holding up as good today. Probably since the technology has came way further since then and the fact that this influational film has inspired many other films like it - still it has taken several key elemets from older films too. This takes the main theme very seriously, though. And nails it.

8 out of 10 Mother Mary figurines.
½ July 26, 2017
This surprised me by just how odd and engrossing Gene Hackman's character is. And the way the simple, but very effective mystery unfolds is masterly. Watching someone meticulous sound-edit shouldn't be this interesting,
July 16, 2017
Obsession and paranoia at its finest, but it is the twists and turns that elevate this movie to the grandeur it deserves and it slyly comments on what role technology has in our future, way ahead of its time.
½ July 2, 2017
Fantastic film! But way too deep and a bit outdated for my taste. The ending confused me. Who murdered the director and why? I thought the acting was fantastic and the direction was intriguing. I wish I knew the major themes of the movie, because I've read theories and they are brilliant. But, the movie sure was entertaining, even though it was paced very slow.
½ June 13, 2017
1974 U.S. thriller from the great cinematic direction of Francis Ford Coppola. The Conversation is a film about paranoia as I will reveal later.
It follows the work of a surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman). Caul works independently as a wiretapper for whoever pays him. Obviously his line of work is quite stressful and he has to overcome moral dilemmas along the way balancing them alongside his deeply religious beliefs.
The film builds up quite slowly, indeed for the first hour in reality. About half way through the film I did wonder what I was watching however I am glad I stayed with the film as in the second half the storyline is more gripping.
The film as with many of the genre is set in San Francisco and begins in the bustling location of Union Square as Caul hacks the conversation between a couple whilst huddled in the back of a van.
Why are the couple so interesting? It is that question which forms the backbone of the film.
Basically Caul has been hired to hack the couple's 'private' conversation by what appears to be a suspicious husband.
The husband in question is some high ranking Director and he uses his associate Martin Stett played by a pre Star Wars Harrison Ford. Ford looks young and menacing in the role. I saw his name low down in the title sequence credits and wondered when he was going to appear!
As the film progresses Caul becomes paranoid about what will happen to the couple after the contents of his surveillance tapes are heard.
Featuring some rather dated technology the performances of the actors (Hackman in particular) comes to the fore.
Will the couple face a murderous end?
Caul's suspicions grow, quite rightly.
Haunted by a case several years before in New York, Caul knows the possible nasty side of his work.
Coppola produced and directed some fantastic cinema in the 1970s and indeed this film is another one.
May 25, 2017
Excellent Francis Ford Coppola movie made at the height of Watergate and security breaches. Gene Hackman plays a bugging expert who is paid to tape a private conversation. Hackman and co-star John Cazale are both superb and the film weaves a grim and paranoid atmosphere. Watch also for Harrison Ford in a supporting role.
May 8, 2017
Of Francis Ford Coppola's four masterpieces (the other three being Apocalypse Now, and the first two Godfather films), The Conversation is the most subtle, eerie, and socially relevant. While the 70s birthed many conspiracy thrillers, this is one of the few that seems to have only grown in potency over time. It's paranoid musings on the surveillance age certainly haven't become any less unsettling, and Gene Hackman's conscious plagued character (perhaps the actor's very best performance) really speaks to future generations that lost their privacy. Excellent cinematography and sound too, as a picture like this obviously needs.
March 27, 2017
An excellent movie made at the height of Watergate and security breaches.
Gene Hackman plays a bugging expert who is paid to tape a private conversation.
It weaves a grim and paranoid atmosphere and Hackman is superb.
March 22, 2017
This magnificent movie came out right between two Godfather films and is a bright example of Coppola's talent and attention to detail. But what makes this film truly remarkable is its atmosphere, its mystery and suspense. It is just so magnificent.
½ February 8, 2017
While it's too monotone, that's about the only flaw in this shocking and multi layered masterpiece that redefines sound design
½ November 27, 2016

The great story and moments are streched out too often by the exploration on technology and the characters that while insightful, makes the whole experience much less gratifying than it should be even for a slow burner.
Super Reviewer
½ November 24, 2016
A sophisticated and taut narrative in which Coppola does with sound what Antonioni had done with image in his Blow-up, following a paranoid man unable to open up to anybody and trying desperately to put the pieces together of something that he cannot understand.
½ November 21, 2016
Basically a different version of Rear Window, Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation stars Gene Hackman as a sound expert who is hired to listen to and piece together a young couple's conversation and realizes that it is a plot for murder. Gene Hackman delivers an effective low-key performance as the sound expert and The Conversation does explore the consequences as well as the loneliness of people whose sole occupation is peeking into other people's lives. However, it is also a bit too challenging to understand and too slow in pace that it becomes difficult to keep us compelled.
October 17, 2016
Interesting to a degree, but tedious.
½ September 19, 2016
Gene Hackman turns in what might be the best performance of his career in The Conversation, which is hard for me to say since I adore Hoosiers with all my heart. This film is pure genius and he is a big reason why. In the movie he portrays a private detective named Harry Caul who specializes in audio surveillance techniques. The plot opens with him, along with his team, doing what he does best. However, the plot thickens when he realizes something bad might happen if he completes the job and turns over the tapes. The film is quiet, but that brilliantly builds tension and makes every sound stand out even more. It wasn't long before I felt like I was living in Harry's world, and I understood his paranoia. Any time he would open up and talk, I felt uneasy just like him. Hackman really taps into this character's neurosis and makes him standoffish but also sympathetic. While other people in his life see him as rather insensitive or unfeeling, we are given the benefit of learning what has made him this way. The plot has a few twists in it that I thought worked brilliantly, and it made me want to go back and watch the movie again almost immediately. I have a feeling to a modern audience the slow pace of The Conversation might be a turn-off, but I felt so much tension and paranoia throughout that I thought it worked perfectly. If you have not watched this film, I think it is definitely worth trying, because it is a Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece.
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