MOVIE CORNER

May 12, 2006

My review of Three Days of the Condor

Filed under: My reviews — movie_critic @ 11:23 am

I finally got a chance to watch again “Three days of the Condor” many, many years after I’ve seen it for the first time. I was captivated by this superb thriller again just as much as I’ve been all these years ago. It’s possible that I enjoyed it even more now, because of all those small details I’m sure I’ve missed before.


As the story goes, on an ordinary rainy day in an inconspicuous CIA office posing as the American Literary Institute in New York a whole section of CIA analysts is brutally murdered in the space of 2 minutes – all but one. It was Joe Turner’s turn to go and bring lunch for everybody from the cafe nearby. Joe Turner (Robert Redford) was a bookworm fond of old comics, who worked on the cross analysis of the books from several countries. He had just sent the report on the potential network hidden inside CIA through the channels and received a discouraging answer from the brass, informing him that he was wrong in his conclusions.

Joe leaves the office for just a few minutes and returns to a nightmare. With all his colleagues slaughtered, panicking Joe turns to the CIA for help, even though, being a thoroughly civilian man, he can hardly remember his code name –Condor- under the circumstances. While he’s told to wait for instructions and resurface in a couple of hours, the cleaning operation begins immediately and, though bewildered Joe does not know it yet, his call to the CIA revealed him to the very people who ordered the hit on the analyst section.

They arrange for him to meet with his section chief, who is supposed to bring Joe’s friend along for the verification. The meeting goes awry when the chief tries to kill Joe and, failing to do so, kills his friend to remove the witness. Joe runs away and in his attempt to hide accidentally stumbles into the store, where he notices a young woman finishing her purchase (Kathy is played by the young Fay Dunaway, in one of her great roles). He follows her to the car and forces her to bring him into her apartment, where he hopes to have a little respite to think about what happened. The more he thinks about the whole affair the more it is clear to him that somebody in the CIA is behind all this and his paper was probably right on the money with the conclusions on the clandestine network inside CIA.

They arrange for him to meet with his section chief, who is supposed to bring Joe’s friend along for the verification. The meeting goes awry when the chief tries to kill Joe and, failing to do so, kills his friend to remove the witness. Joe runs away and in his attempt to hide accidentally stumbles into the store, where he notices a young woman finishing her purchase (Kathy is played by the young Fay Dunaway, in one of her great roles). He follows her to the car and forces her to bring him into her apartment, where he hopes to have a little respite to think about what happened. The more he thinks about the whole affair the more it is clear to him that somebody in the CIA is behind all this and his paper was probably right on the money with the conclusions on the clandestine network inside CIA.

The CIA at the same time is considering Joe as a prime suspect in the murder of his colleagues and the skill with which he eludes capture leads them to believe he might be a mole. Joe’s life is in more danger that ever and the same assassin, who eliminated his colleagues, is hot on his trail.

The CIA at the same time is considering Joe as a prime suspect in the murder of his colleagues and the skill with which he eludes capture leads them to believe he might be a mole. Joe’s life is in more danger that ever and the same assassin, who eliminated his colleagues, is hot on his trail.

The assassin, Monsieur Joubert, is played by Max von Sydov with his unmistakable flair and it’s fascinating to watch them together in one elevator when Joe goes to warn the wife of his murdered friend that she needs to hide as well. As soon as he sends her off to another apartment, the elevator arrives with the assassin. Noting that the man who just arrived on the floor is waiting for an elevator again, Joe is convinced that this man might be after him. In a riveting scene the assassin plays an unbelievably cool game of cat and mouse with Joe and I, as a spectator, probably felt the relief as intensely as the poor Joe when the elevator finally touched down and nothing happened. Using a cool trick Joe eludes the assassin, but not before the latter notices the car number license.

The assassin, Monsieur Joubert, is played by Max von Sydov with his unmistakable flair and it’s fascinating to watch them together in one elevator when Joe goes to warn the wife of his murdered friend that she needs to hide as well. As soon as he sends her off to another apartment, the elevator arrives with the assassin. Noting that the man who just arrived on the floor is waiting for an elevator again, Joe is convinced that this man might be after him. In a riveting scene the assassin plays an unbelievably cool game of cat and mouse with Joe and I, as a spectator, probably felt the relief as intensely as the poor Joe when the elevator finally touched down and nothing happened. Using a cool trick Joe eludes the assassin, but not before the latter notices the car number license.

Meanwhile, after a rather tense conversation upon Joe’s return the girl had warmed up to her kidnapper and agrees to help him to sort out the problem with the agency. She helps him to lure the second in command in the New York CIA department (Cliff Robertson) to a secluded place to talk. The boss agrees to check out Joe’s theory about the network inside the network and gradually finds the clues supporting this theory. Finally, Joe arrives at the conclusion that the whole thing was concocted in order to keep the world’s oil resources under control (kind of sounds quite modern, does it not?) and what started as a sort of a war game grew out of control. He goes public with it, but in the end the question posed by the New York CIA director “Do you think they’ll publish it?” remains unanswered. Frankly, if we take the look on Joe’s face for an answer, the chances of his story appearing in the newspaper were probably nil.

Meanwhile, after a rather tense conversation upon Joe’s return the girl had warmed up to her kidnapper and agrees to help him to sort out the problem with the agency. She helps him to lure the second in command in the New York CIA department (Cliff Robertson) to a secluded place to talk. The boss agrees to check out Joe’s theory about the network inside the network and gradually finds the clues supporting this theory. Finally, Joe arrives at the conclusion that the whole thing was concocted in order to keep the world’s oil resources under control (kind of sounds quite modern, does it not?) and what started as a sort of a war game grew out of control. He goes public with it, but in the end the question posed by the New York CIA director “Do you think they’ll publish it?” remains unanswered. Frankly, if we take the look on Joe’s face for an answer, the chances of his story appearing in the newspaper were probably nil.

I think the lure of this movie is in the fact that it still seems quite modern in its main premise – that some people will always be ready to do anything and to go to any length to protect their power. And the big O (oil) is still quite a frighteningly important factor in the world politics as it was 31 years ago. And, of course, another factor that will keep this movie in the annals of the movie history is the superb directing and acting.

I think the lure of this movie is in the fact that it still seems quite modern in its main premise – that some people will always be ready to do anything and to go to any length to protect their power. And the big O (oil) is still quite a frighteningly important factor in the world politics as it was 31 years ago. And, of course, another factor that will keep this movie in the annals of the movie history is the superb directing and acting.

It was one of the first films directed by Sydney Pollack and by far definitely one of his best, at least where it concerns his work on the thrillers. The moody atmosphere of the movie, extremely engaging contrast between the first minutes of a tedious start of the day in the American Literary Institute and the roller-coaster ride that followed – it was a work of a great master, even though he was relatively young at the time – only 40 years old.

It was one of the first films directed by Sydney Pollack and by far definitely one of his best, at least where it concerns his work on the thrillers. The moody atmosphere of the movie, extremely engaging contrast between the first minutes of a tedious start of the day in the American Literary Institute and the roller-coaster ride that followed – it was a work of a great master, even though he was relatively young at the time – only 40 years old.

Robert Redford was at the time in the prime of his career and this film will by all rights remain in his filmography as one of his best. The bewildered bookworm, who in the end outsmarted the skilled assissin and half the CIA, was a tough role to play in a way that would make this character natural, but Redford was absolutely believable in his portraying of the different stages of Joe Turner’s journey from a helpless despair to a resourceful investigation and a sense of fighting for the right cause.

Faye Dunaway was very classy in the role of Kathy Hale, her own transformation in the movie was similar to Joe Turner’s – overwhelmed by the violent start of her relationship with Joe, she gradually finds her nerve and finally tricks the CIA professional with a cool charm that was absolutely great to watch.

Faye Dunaway was very classy in the role of Kathy Hale, her own transformation in the movie was similar to Joe Turner’s – overwhelmed by the violent start of her relationship with Joe, she gradually finds her nerve and finally tricks the CIA professional with a cool charm that was absolutely great to watch.

All in all I believe this film can tuck another 30 years under its belt and still come on top of many others in its category. Definitely one of the best examples of great entertaining!

All in all I believe this film can tuck another 30 years under its belt and still come on top of many others in its category. Definitely one of the best examples of great entertaining!

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