Three Days of the Condor Reviews
'Three Days of the Condor' is shot beautifully with plenty of delicious little twists but poor Faye Dunaway is absolutely wasted in a thankless role that was clearly just beefed up (if you can call it that) for the sake of having a female lead.
Rotten Tomatoes consensus is: "This post-Watergate thriller captures the paranoid tenor of the times, thanks to Sydney Pollack's taut direction and excellent performances from Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway." Roger Ebert wrote, "Three Days of the Condor is a well-made thriller, tense and involving, and the scary thing, in these months after Watergate, is that it's all too believable." Some critics also described the film as a piece of political propaganda, as it was released soon after the "Family Jewels" scandal came to light in December 1974 which exposed a variety of CIA misconduct. However, in an interview with Jump Cut, Pollack explained that the film was written solely to be a spy thriller and that production on the film was nearly over by the time the Family Jewels revelations were made, so even if they had wanted to take advantage of them, it was far too late in the filmmaking process to do so. Despite both Pollack and Redford being well-known political liberals, they were only interested in making the film because an espionage thriller was a genre neither of them had previously explored. As a classic conspiracy thriller with a bit of a twist, I remember this being quite good and a well crafted piece of film. When re-seeing it now, I might be a bit less positive as I think Sydney Pollack is quite uneven as a director. We get great scenes mixed with really less great scenes. Such as the lovemaking sequence between Redford and Dunaway. And he doesn´t really manage to portray that overwhelming paranoid feel you would like to see in this sort of conspiracy thriller. "Three Days For Condor" is still stylish, convincing and intriguing. The plot is strong and the characters are all solid and believable. Redford acts with such a relaxed and easy manner, at the same time I think Turner´s reactions to what he is put through is not fully satisfying. I reckon someone in his shoes would be a lot more frighten and upset then Redford communicate in his role. Even if he really manages to act out his characters thoughts and concerns through his actions and facial expressions. Max Von Sydow is great as the sophisticated and calculating assassin Joubert. While Dunaway ends up on the sidelines unfortunately. We also get an up close look of the newly built World Trade Center in 1974 when the movie was shot. Trivia: According to Lucia Bozzola at Allmovie, the picture was "one of a cycle of conspiracy films from the 1970s to appear in the wake of the Watergate scandal that also included "The Parallax View" (1974) and "All the President's Men" (1976)".
The espionage thriller genre is one which hit a heyday during its most culturally relevant era, the time of the cold war. This was an era where the world was swept with paranoia and films capitalized on that. Since the cold war has been over for decades, the feeling of Three Days of the Condor is bound to have diminished slightly. Since the subject matter of the film is extremely timely, the result is that it doesn't hold up over the succeeding years and so it is perhaps not as intense as it once was. Three Days of the Condor is certainly a good film, but it is one which relies on a story which is somewhat dated in the current age. And as well as that, the genre itself is one very much reliant on a lot of talking while everything else around it moves along at a slow pace. Three Days of the Condor remains intelligently scripted either way, but it certainly stretches on for a long time and relies on atmosphere to carry it when nothing much is happening. The feeling may not always hold up in the contemporary age.
However, you can't blame anybody for the fact that history has changed. For what it's worth, Three Days of the Condor remains a sophisticated and intelligent thriller even outside of its context. The tale chronicles an interesting character by the name of Joseph Turner, a man who is very well-read and intelligent yet also an everyman caught up in a complicated situation. When he gets dragged into the violence of government politics and manages to barely make it out, he is left in a situation with nobody to trust. This gives Three Days of the Condor its feeling of intensity, fuelling it with unpredictability. From there on, the story develops naturally and goes on a course of all kinds of twists and turns with no telling what will come next. The story is one which has very intricate scripting, full of rich dialogue and clever plotting which keeps the audience guessing.
The handling of the material by Sydney Pollack is brilliant. Though the story itself is a complicated one, viewers are given an appropriate amount of time and a sensible story pace to comprehend everything that is going on. This allows them to gain an understanding of the relevance of each character and learn the true scope of the story with all its subtext and meaning. And the film is a stylish venture as well. The cinematography is a notorious asset to the film because it always captures things from a fair distance which gives viewers the feeling that they are spying on the character, further reinforcing the themes of paranoia in the narrative. The cinematography is able to capture the scope of the Joseph Turner's journey and the world around him while managing to maintain the atmosphere for a long time with extended shots, requiring editing minimally but still managing to use it effectively during the more fast-paced moments of the narrative. Essentially, Three Days of the Condor is shot and edited very well as a means of matching the pace with the latter element being effective enough to earn the film an Academy Award nomination.
And of course the brilliance of the cast in Three Days of the Condor is what keeps it consistently engaging even at the slowest of times.
Robert Redford's leading performance is a very strong asset to Three Days of the Condor. Although there is a lot of complications going on in the conspiracy at the heart of the narrative which requires the story to focus on many characters, Robert Redford's intense leading performance keeps things centred on him the whole time. Never letting his guard down for a second, Robert Redford manages keep a firm a grip on the complicated array of situations he has to face through a strong understanding of the material, cleverly conveying the intelligent nature of the character. And during some of the more intense moments in the film, Robert Redford proves himself capable of putting up a fight with strong physical energy. Robert Redford carries Three Days of the Condor very nicely.
Faye Dunaway also brings in a strong effort. Caught up in the intense mood of the story, Faye Dunaway manages to keep herself on edge throughout the entire story. Her chemistry with Robert Redford is impressive since Kathy Hale starts out as a victim of hostage antagonism but gradually manages to develop a genuine sense of trust with him. From there, the dramatic sparks develop into a romantic attachment where the two share a genuine sense of passion. Faye Dunaway works very well with Robert Redford to establish a rich engagement between characters, and it helps to add more a more human touch to the story.
Max Von Sydow is also a nice touch. Without having to say all that much in Three Days of the Condor, Max Von Sydow naturally has a sense of sophisticated mystery about him which plays to the benefit of his villainous nature. He is so professional about the role that he shows no feeling whatsoever when responsible for an assassination, yet there is nothing hollow about how he does it. The man is so strong in the part that he never comes off as being the enemy of the story, simply a hired gun with a strong attitude towards what he does. And when he interacts with Robert Redford more closely towards the end of the story, there is much intrigue. Max Von Sydow captures his part with such ease that it almost seems routine for the actor.
So Three Days of the Condor may rely on dated subject matter and a slow pace, but it provides audiences perspective into a different time with intense direction from Sydney Pollack and strong performances from its cast.
2.5 out of 5
Joseph Turner is hired by the CIA to read large amounts of records and report his key findings. One day he arrives at work to find all his colleagues dead and barely escapes with his life. When he tries to discover what happened, he is constantly attacked by secret agents. He runs into a woman, Kathy, who helps him try to uncover those responsible for his misfortunes.
"Is he dead?"
"Before he hit the ground."
Sydney Pollack, director of Tootsie, Out of Africa, The Firm, The Interpreter, Absence of Malice, Havana, Random Hearts, and This Property is Condemned, delivers Three Days of the Condor. The storyline for this picture is just okay. The acting and action are pretty good and the cast includes Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow, Tina Chen, and Cliff Robertson.
"What's the quality of work?"
"Clean, fast, and first rate."
I recently came across this on Netflix and decided to add it to the queue. This was an above average addition to the genre but falls short of being a classic. I am not a huge spy/espionage genre fan, but Redford's performance was worthwhile. This is worth watching if you're a fan of Redford and/or nothing better is on.
"Fuck the Wall Street Journal!"