on 7 July 2014
Sidney Pollack's 1975 "Three Days of the Condor" is an effectively slick contribution to two of the sub-genres of thriller -- the trials and tribulations of the low-level operative who discovers a conspiracy, and the story of an apparently ordinary man who finds within himself unlikely resources and skills. The protagonist of this mixture is Joe Turner (Robert Redford), a desk-bound low-level CIA operative who does nothing but read (anything, everything) and look for clues about possible encoded enemy plans that might harm the US. He finds something worth reporting and reports it, and in pretty short order, all members of the team with whom he works are killed, Joe himself being lucky enough to have been out of the office buying lunch for his group. He discovers the carnage when he gets back with the sandwiches. Joe knows the chain of command to which he reports, so he figures out that something is rotten in "the company" and he takes steps to find out what that is before he can be tracked down by the hit squad who killed his fellow-workers. It's a situation where, although he is in touch with his chain of command, he fears that he cannot trust any of them. The suspense of the movie comes from the ingenious and very careful ways in which Joe protects himself, while making progress on finding out what's going on. I'll say no more about the plot, in case there are folks out there who have yet to see the movie, beyond saying that it is well-worked out and that the suspense is well-maintained. Redford is hardly stretched by the demands of the role, but he is effective and appealing as the puzzled and antsy hero.
The plot has affinities with Le Carre's kind of stories from the 1970's, but where in Le Carre one is made aware not only of the issues of trust but of the morally compromised status of the "good guys," in this movie the focus is exclusively on trust, and it remains so until the end. The trust issue plays most obviously into the suspensefulness of the movie, and that is where Pollack is happy to leave it. What makes the movie a bit more than just a well-oiled piece of machinery, however, is the role of Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway), a woman whom Joe grabs at gunpoint and forces to drive him to a safe place. He has to convince her that he's on the side of the angels, and eventually she believes him and becomes his abettor in his scheme to get at the truth. Kathy is a photographer, who seems to be in a troubled relationship. A history is hinted that gives her the possibility of a bit more depth than the other characters, and Dunaway suggests that quality of interestingness by look and gesture -- she is arguably the most interesting character in the movie.
The other potentially interesting character is Joubert, a hit man (arrestingly played by Max von Sydow). His relation to the CIA is one of the things that Joe has to figure out to protect his own life. I say "potentially interesting" because the part is underwritten -- deliberately, I think, to enable a twist at the end to be brought off. So . . . an entertaining movie, with good music (Dave Grusin) and some lovely New York and Brooklyn settings. It resists being what we would now call an "action movie," and that's all to the good.
on 20 January 2015
....asks CIA analyst Joe Turner (Redford). Clearly little in the world of superpower politics has changed since 1975, except now that question has been answered.
Turner's freewheeling, mop haired 70s life is turned upside down when things at his office take a murderous turn. Could this be anything to do with the hidden messages he has been uncovering whilst analysing literature for the CIA?
As he seeks to answer this question, he must avoid the assassinatory attentions of various rogue intelligence elements and freelance hitmen. He doesn't avoid Faye Dunaway though, and she does sterling work as his at first reticent, but ultimately (inevitably) willing companion as he cris-crosses the city looking for answers, and trying to stay alive.
The film is well scripted and well acted. The scenes of 1970s New York by now have a classical, rather than a dated feel. It's like a much more intelligent version of James Bond, and to be fair, has a good amount of action too. With the exception of the early scenarios with Dunaway, the direction is taut and purposeful. The plotting is just oblique enough to stay interesting, without ever getting too silly.
The ending gives us pause for thought, 40 years on; what happens if America starts running out of oil - 'are we planning to invade the Middle East?'.....
on 21 November 2013
The period in the 1970's (between about 1972 and 1978) produced a rash of conspiracy thrillers (The Conversation, The Parallax View, All the Presidents Men, Capricorn One etc.) which are now, rightly, regarded as classics of this, sadly out of vogue, genre. Influenced by the Watergate era zeigeist these thrillers are maybe rare now beacuse they require one to use ones brain to follow the story. Three Days of the Condor fits neatly in to this canon. Robert Redford's character is part of a team of people working on codes related to books in a nondescript New York town house. Redford is lucky enough to be out to lunch when all his colleagus are assassinated by a team of killers lead by a sinister agent played by Max Von Sydow and soon Redford is on the run but left out in the cold by his superiors for reasons that much later become apparent. His one lucky break is running in to the delectable Faye Dunaway who assists him in his quest to get to the bottom of the conspiracy and save his life. Tense, intelligent stuff.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 March 2013
I love the panic that Redford's character has in this movie - he simply doesn't know what to do and blunders his way through CIA conspiracies in his attempt to not get killed.
Don't be fooled by the cover, this is not a romance movie.
The blu-ray picture quality is superb - great soundtrack.
on 3 July 2013
A gripping espionage storyline from the word go and an easy espionage storyline to follow. With some offerings, to avert your eyes from the screen for a few moments means continuity suicide, not so here. Completely believable plot (more so since 1975) given world events since its filming. Without wishing to spoil, ending is what would be expected, making it totally believable once again. I don't know why, can't explain, but the opening scenes in the "front" of an office almost felt as if it was coming out of the screen into the living room. Very atmospheric of a cold (in more ways than one) and wet pre-gentrified New York. Cannot fault my supplier. Do as you're told and buy it!!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Condor is the code name for an employee of the CIA. His mission is to read, read everything he can to see if there are any subversive codes being posted in innocuous looking literature.
In the book he discovers that the number of packages shipped to his location do not match the bill of lading. He brings this to the attention of his superiors.
One day he leaves by an un-recorded unauthorized back door for lunch. On returning he finds everyone dead.
Who did this and who can he trust? To survive he must use his wits and what he has learned from his reading.
The movie "Three days of the Condor" is based on this book, which is really first in a series of books, sort of like the James Bond series. Naturally being film media the story needed cutting down to size, hence three days instead of six.
Robert Redford has to squeeze James Grady's "Six Days of the Condor" into the Redford mold. The book plot of drugs and Viet Nam are out. Redford's substitute plot of oil and Arabs is in. Bad guys differ.
Great acting, great actors and a few faux pas, such as if they knew there was a back door to the location, don't you think it would be watched?
Tina Chen (Janice) can be seen again in the movie "Paper Man" (1971) where her computer prints out "DEATH DEATH DEATH"
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2011
This is a film that I saw several years ago
and always remembered it. It is an all time classic,
one would think that it was made recently, not in the 70's.
38 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on 19 May 2004
In his 1979 novel "Shibumi" (part political thriller, part cynical attack on Western civilization and part satire of the thriller genre), written at the end of that genre's possibly greatest decade, Trevanian explains the six parts of the Japanese board game symbolizing the concept of effortless perfection and inspiring that novel's title: Fuseki (the opening stage or strategic premise), Sabaki (an effort to quickly, efficiently terminate a problematic situation), Seki (a neutral standoff where neither side gains an advantage), Uttegae (a potentially sacrificial strategic maneuver), Shicho (a running offensive) and Tsuru no Sugomori (literally, "the confinement of the cranes to their nest:" the elegant capture of the opponent's stones).
Like other books published then and influenced by the shocking Watergate revelations, "Shibumi" asks what happens if government is hijacked by a secret association not bound by anything but its own interests and hunger for power. One of the most important novels on whose legacy Trevanian builds in his book is James Grady's "Six Days of the Condor," adapted for the screen by director Sydney Pollack in this hugely successful fourth (of seven) collaboration(s) with Robert Redford; costarring Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow and Cliff Robertson. But while Grady's novel centered around the Vietnam trauma, the movie's screenplay, besides shortening the critical time frame from six days to three, changes the focus to the era's obsession with oil; thus effortlessly proving one of the story's key points: Assuming a group of insiders truly managed to commandeer key governmental structures, the respective substantive context would be of little import, because *any* such action would constitute a terminal violation of public trust, and the consequences for any individual caught in the resulting web of intrigue and deceit would be equally disastrous.
"Three Days of the Condor" begins with the assassination of virtually the entire staff of a New York CIA office of "reader researchers," agents responsible for the detection of possible clues to actual or potential Agency operations in literature. The massacre's sole survivor is Joe Turner, codenamed "Condor" (Redford), who literally happened to be out to lunch when the assassins hit. After his discovery of the bloodbath, his superiors promise to bring him "home," using his inside friend Sam as a confidence-builder. But at the assigned meeting Sam is shot, too, and Turner himself only escapes by the skin of his teeth - again. Realizing that his own organization is somehow involved in the hit and that he is no longer safe in his own apartment, Turner hides in the home of photographer Kathy Hale (Dunaway), whom he takes hostage, but who is a loner like him and eventually develops a fondness for him, agreeing to help him trying to discover the truth behind the terrifying labyrinth of lies and double standards in which he suddenly finds himself.
While "Condor"'s tale does have a clear premise (the interests of those responsible for the massacre) and both the mass-assassination and the following events are merely moves in the lethal game into which Turner is thrown against his will (and where his greatest advantage is his unpredictability), against the overbearing opponent he faces, he alone has little chances of emerging victoriously; of, in the terminology of Shibumi, "confining the cranes to their nest:" All he can hope for is a long-lasting state of Seki; a standoff and perhaps temporary ceasefire (a conclusion later also reached in John Grisham's bestselling "The Firm"). The inference, of course, is that it takes more than a single individual's discovery of a government-undermining conspiracy to take down the conspirators - and as in Watergate, the press is seen as a crucial vehicle for reaching a mass audience and taking the events out of the perpetrators' control.
Due to the universality of its theme, the importance of "Condor" far exceeds the story's 1970s context. Indeed, it is as relevant now as it was then; and so is the Pulitzer-Prize-winning Woodward-Bernstein account on Watergate and its corresponding movie ("All the President's Men;" also starring Redford, alongside Dustin Hoffman and Jason Robards). But this is also a magnificently filmed movie, sharply edited and using New York City's wintry urban landscape for full dramatic effect. Robert Redford gives a career-defining, tightly controlled performance as cornered bookworm-turned-spy Joe Turner, matched in every respect by Max von Sydow's hired assassin Joubert, who has no cause of his own, finds his occupation "quite restful," never concerns himself with his missions' "why" but only the "when," "where" and "how much," and paints delicate little figurines in his hours of relaxation. Faye Dunaway's Kathy is not merely another victim of Stockholm syndrome (a hostage's identification with their captors' motives); she truly comes to understand Turner because of their likeness: Her photos are expressions of her loneliness as much as Joe's solitary stance against an entire governmental organization; beautiful but sad November pictures of empty streets, fields and park benches, shot in black and white and an intricate, subtle metaphor even during their love scene. Cliff Robertson's CIA man Higgins finally is the perfect foil for both Turner and Joubert; not as far along in his career as he should be but, although sympathetic to Turner's plight, fully buying into the legitimacy of the Agency's "games" and ready to do whatever it takes to keep an embarrassment from becoming conspicuous.
Turner's and Higgins's last meeting is poignantly set against a Salvation Army choir's performance of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and its chorus "Oh tidings of comfort and joy;" ending in a still shot of Turner's face starkly reminiscent of Kathy's photos. Yet, "Condor's" story is open-ended: What would he do, were he still around today?
"What is it with you people - do you think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?" Joe Turner, "Three Days of the Condor."
"All ... organizations in this book lack any basis in reality - although some of them do not realize that." Trevanian, "Shibumi."
on 26 June 2015
Three days Of The Condor is a film very much of its time,by that I do not mean it has aged badly.I mean it is a film that Very much Reflected the feelings of most Americans at the time.More and more the public were being shown the dark underbelly of the very offices that they believed were there to protect them,and Condor along with Redfords other Great Expose of the time All The Presidents Men showed truly what was going on.A great companion piece to be watched with Presidents and even the Parallax View. Brilliant.
on 9 December 2013
If you missed it grab it now, a great thriller based on a great book, one of Redford's best low key performances, although originally set in the cold war era it rings even more true today, as our so-called "vigilant" Intelligence services are now at war with each other over the $Billions in pork and no-bid contracts that they rely on to fund our next "Democratic" leader. (what a laugh)
Not to mention the spying on their own citizens and allies makes the Stasi and the KGB seem like mere amateurs.