There was a great deal of political paranoia to be found in the cinema of the 1970's. To films in particular epitomize that era. Alan J. Pakula's ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and Sydney Pollack's THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR are two films in particular that capture and preserve that moment in time. Robert Redford stars in both films and his approach to both characters in each film seems initially like one of indifference with a dash of naiveté, but once drawn in he becomes very self reliant. Dustin Hoffman's character in ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN is more seasoned and cynical and welcomes the confrontation and must bring it to fruition.
THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR is a complex suspenseful political thriller directed by Sydney Pollack. A shroud of relentless paranoia permeates the entire film from beginning to end. It is set primarily in New York City and Washington DC and this adds to the drama in a very credible way. Robert Redford is a CIA research reader. He reads books and all forms of written material essentially looking for ideas that his branch may find useful. He reads everything and reports anything pertinent with his team he is stationed with. Things go very wrong and he soon finds that he is a man on the run and he is a target. Why? That is what he has to find out and turn his situation around if he can. Besides Robert Redford, the cast includes Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, John Houseman, Patrick Gorman and Max von Sydow. Redford's character is full of energy and once he directs that energy for his very survival, he becomes a very formidable player in the world of covert affairs. Interestingly, Max von Sydow has such a subtle yet incredibly powerful screen presence. On screen he effortlessly puts Robert Redford's energy and daring aside with such ease that you will be amazed. Max von Sydow's performance is brilliant and he steals every frame of this film that he is in. And on another note, Sydney Pollack once more proves he was on of the cinema's best directors.
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN is a very compelling movie. From a historical perspective it is still as fresh as this morning's headlines. I prefer historical films where there is some measure of morality of the participants of events of note to the American experience, and that is sure to be found in this film. At times this seems more like a film with some political message and agenda, but in reality it is simply a tale of unraveling the truth. Ironically, I do not find a strong sense of right or wrong concerning the motives of the main characters. For them, getting the story at anyone cost seems to be their objective, their motivation. The very story they wish to prove and propagate is very political, but still it is about reporting the truth. Hoffman's performance is riveting and believable. Redford is subtle and somewhat humorously stoic. Hoffman and Redford make an incredible team, visually and in every other respect. The direction, cinematography and editing are flawless. Overall, this film genre that was so prevalent in 1970s opened the door both cinematically and in the real political arena for citizens to ask the tough questions of their elected and appointed officials. But, once those questions are answered, doubt still remains it always will.
Modern thinking, from a political perspective, will never return to what it was before the decade of the 1970s partly in thanks to THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. These two films changed the way we viewed the world.