Mon 20 Mar 2017
THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR. Paramount Pictures, 1975. Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von Sydow, John Houseman, Addison Powell. Screenplay: Lorenzo Semple Jr. & David Rayfiel, based on the novel Six Days of the Condor, by James Grady. Director: Sydney Pollack.
This is a movie that for some unaccountable reason I’ve missed seeing until now. I regret that. This is a good one. Robert Redford has played a good many roles over the years, but as Joseph Turner, a bookish low-grade employee of the CIA (code name Condor), he is without a doubt a character he was meant to play.
Outwardly working for an obscure corner of the world called the American Literary Historical Society in downtown Manhattan, he ducks out the back way one rainy lunchtime to get sandwiches for everyone, only to return and find everyone shot and killed at their desks. What to do? Call his superior and ask to be called in, of course.
This turns out to be more easily said than done. He quickly discovers that whoever was responsible for the slaughter at his normally stodgy workplace wants him dead as well — and he has no idea who that might be. Who can he trust? No one.
Along the way he carjacks a young woman, Kathy Hale by name and a photographer by trade, at gunpoint. She is played by Faye Dunaway, perhaps one of a handful of actresses at the time who could manage not to be totally outshone om the screen by Redford’s boyishly handsome charisma. Kathy is naturally very reluctant to believe Turner’s story, but as in all movies like this, she gradually comes around.
I loved the first half of this movie. When it comes to unraveling the secrets of the inner workings of the CIA, I was less enamored, but that like comparing an “A plus” to an “A,” and I am not grading on the curve.
Cliff Robertson, as Turner’s immediate superior, gets to play Cliff Robertson, which he does very well, as usual. The standout performance in the second half is Max von Sydow, who plays a wonderfully cosmopolitan hitman who plays for whichever side is paying him at the time, at the same time giving young Turner an insider’s look at the world he was quite happily unaware of before.
The film is beautifully photographed, the story holds together, and the performances are terrific. What more could you ask?