The Parallax View Reviews
Clearly inspired by the surplus of political paranoia from the late 1960's, The Parallax View comes with a powerful story to it. Capitalizing on the aftermath of John F. Kennedy's assassination, The Parallax View begins with the assassination of a key political figure at a high profile scene where there are two suspected killers. One remains unnoticed by the crowds while the other dies soon after. Without making any direct references to the JFK assassination, The Parallax View draws clear parallels with an original narrative that allows audiences to experience a tale of government conspiracy. It's a film very much of its time, having come out soon in the aftermath of an era where the American public became disillusioned with their government. The Parallax View is one of Alan J. Pakula's three films which capitalized on the contemporary paranoia about conspiracies and political assassination, an appropriately timely film that effectively uses a similar theme from Sydney Pollack's Three Days of the Condor (1975) with the conspiracy set entirely within the American government system. With The Parallax View preceding Three Days of the Condor, its arguable that it helped to add sparks to the popularization of espionage thrillers even though its themes are quite different.
The story unravels as an intelligently plotted thriller with smart dialogue and some intense plot twists. Though it doesn't demand stylish obsession, Alan J. Pakula manages to effectively find imagery out of the basic nature of the settings in The Parallax View through use of effective cinematography that manages to provide the protagonist's perspective on the events in the story, making it easier for audiences to connect to him. The intensity in the film also develops naturally out of the story without all that much reliance on its musical score, only using it sporadically while relying more on realistic silence to develop the mood of the film. The experience is a slow one, but it manages to maintain its mood and its mystery at a steady rate throughout the experience. Audiences are left to keep on guessing as new plot points are introduced to the tale. There are times when the overall direction that the story is going in can be a little arbitrary or a little confusing, but the consistent focus on the main character ensures that the film does not get distracted by pointless subplots. The Parallax View keeps striving towards its goal on a singular narrative path and finds ways to keep the mystery of the experience alive from start to finish which keeps audiences guessing.
However, in attempting to capture the nihilism of the late 1960's and early 1970's the ending to the film is most unsatisfactory. Attempting to capture the hopelessness of going against corrupt authority, The Parallax View has a very nihilistic ending. It's very realistic in that sense and in contemporary times it would have been very powerful to experience this, but when looking upon it in the modern day it just makes the entire story seem pointless. The story follows the same sort of path as Chinatown (1974) in the sense that it begins with an investigation but ends with an understanding that things are hopeless. But Chinatown had more characters to engage with along the way and social commentary that existed inside and outside of the mystery. The Parallax View doesn't have any really interesting characters, and even though the protagonist is easy to root for he is still only relevant to the story as the hero and not for who he is as a person. When the film came to a close I could see the validity in its conclusion, but I couldn't help but feel a little underwhelmed since the end of his story arc meant the entire tale came to a close. The Parallax View requires protagonist Joseph Frady to carry everything without having many strong characters to interact with, putting a large burden onto Warren Beatty. Luckily enough the actor proves up to the challenge.
In his heyday Warren Beatty was known as a big-name Hollywood lothario while he most frequently played a romantic figure in his films of choice. The Parallax View is one of his lesser known performances, but it is one of his finest at the same time. Working with a different writer and director to himself this time, Warren Beatty does not have control of the narrative and instead must portray someone else's creation. His character Joseph Frady is unlike any of Warren Beatty's other characters because his identity is not the dominant characteristic of the story. It's what he stands for that matters this time, meaning that Joseph Frady is a nameless patriot standing up for the future of his country. Warren Beatty's performance rests upon his consistent investment in the narrative; his relentless pursuit of the truth drives him through everything while his ability to contain himself restrains his emotional investment, keeping his goal clear. He is focused and articulate, allowing his genuine charm to take a backseat without being absent. Joseph Frady may be the only real character in the film, but Warren Beatty's dedication to subject matter brings a suitably strong leading performance to its credibility.
Paula Prentiss also contributes a strong performance. She has a very brief role in the film, but she manages to convey the confidence of a newswoman in one scene and the vulnerability of a person trapped in a life of terror. She captures different sides to the character very well in each scene, and her gentle chemistry with Warren Beatty compliments his character by bringing out a more human side.
The Parallax View is a conspiracy thriller which finds itself battling age due to its subject matter and tone being heavily reliant on its era of production while the lack of character development severely limits the narrative depth, but Alan J. Pakula's precise direction utilizes an intense mood, strong script and invested central performance from Warren Beatty.
This slow-moving but intense, stylish, visually sumptuous political thriller directed by Alan Pakula (best known for Klute, All the Presients Men, and and Sophie's Choice) somehow combines a preternatural clarity with a misty dissonance: it's like someone shattered the 1960s political assassinations and jumbled them together into a dream. Warren Beatty is great as the callow but dedicated reporter whose curiosity gets him in waters farther over his head (on some occasions literally) than he could have imagined. Several of the film's aspects are, and are probably intended to be, reminiscent of Hitchcock: the way things and people are not as they seem, and a final explosion of menace in the cheerful public environment of a political rally. One of the key films in the political conspiracy theory genre. The Paramount standard DVD is of good quality, but this film really should be remastered and put on Blu-Ray.
The suspense is in finding out how exposing a corrupt, murderous organization can be a tricky fat cats vs. mouse game of getting the truth out, but who can you trust? Oddly, you are captured more by the story than by Warren Beatty, but he's solid here.
Great paranoid thriller.
The image of a car crashing into a grocery store and landing on shopping carts was the point that this Hollywood picture crashed into my ordinary world as a kid, and began to feed my need for celluloid adventures.
The thrill still holds up today, if you allow for the 70s fashions and hair.
Best on the big screen, and loses some of its grandeur on smaller screens, but still a solid pic.
4.5 out of 5