The Day of the Jackal Reviews
An underground terrorist group in France, the OAS, decide to hire a professional killer to assassinate French President Charles De Gaulle (Adrien Cayla-Legrand) after their previous attempts have failed. Their next move is to hire a professional assassin, an English hit man responsible for several high-profile assassinations. Charles Calthrop (Edward Fox) accepts the contract to assassinate the President, and takes on the alias of 'Jackal'. The Jackal methodically prepares to put his plan into action: gathering a new identity, collecting forged documents and a French passport, and finally a custom-built rifle. Top French police investigator Lebel (Michel Lonsdale) learns the name 'Jackal' from an informer in the plotter's ranks and cleverly pieces together the identity of the killer-for-hire.
As with all good thrillers, it's the chase leading up to the climactic finale that is the best part of watching the plot unfold. In relating its tense tale of political wrangling, the intricate and meticulous story develops with a parallel structure that details the Jackal's preparations for the assassination, and Lebel's ongoing efforts to stop him. Fox is superb as the coldly impassioned assassin, and Lonsdale is magnificently analytical as the obsessive detective tracking him down. Despite its measured pace, the tension slowly mounts as the Jackal closes in on his high value target, and the authorities pull out all the stops to find him first. A taut, fascinating, and timeless political thriller.
The assassin, codenamed the Jackal, was played by a then unknown Edward Fox. Fox is perfect in the role. He is perfect as this enigmatic man who we know nothing about, and yet, not for one second do you doubt that this man is a professional.
For a film this long, the suspense builds beautifully because director Fred Zinnemann knows just what he's doing. The only downside is that observant students of history will know the outcome already (The film takes place in 1963. De Gaulle was president of France until 1969) Still, the movie keeps you on the edge of your seat, and constantly guessing as to who will outsmart who.
This is a darn good thriller and everyone who wants an edge of your seat ride should check it out.