Three Days Of The Condor (1975)

Directed by Sydney Pollack
Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Max Von Sydow, Cliff Robertson, John Houseman
Music by David Grusin
Based on the novel ‘Six Days Of The Condor’ by James Grady

“I am not a field agent. I just read books!”

After 9/11 and the war on Iraq and terrorism in the Middle East, Three Days of the Condor is probably more topical now than upon it’s original release in 1975. Almost prophetically so. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre stand tall and proud, housing the New York Headquarters of the CIA in this slick paranoia flick from director Sydney Pollack.

The story concerns Joseph Turner (Robert Redford) codenamed ‘Condor’, a CIA analyst who works with a team in a small apartment block reading books for a living. His job is analyse books from around the world for plots, secret messages, even new ideas that the company (CIA) may use.

Turner is a pretty freewheeling guy. He is habitually late to work and takes great delight in tormenting the security staff and breaking their small rules. One of these rules is to never use the back entrance. On a lunch run Turner breaks this rule and slips out the back. Meanwhile a hit squad, led by Joubert (Max Von Sydow), storms into the building, killing all the analysis team. Turner survives because nobody realized he was missing.

Shocked and confused, Turner heads out onto the street, and finds a public phone. He reports in to C.I.A. headquarters. They direct him not to go home, or any other place he usually frequents. He is to phone back in a few hours time.

So Turner loiters about for a while, and then rings H.Q. again. They make arrangements to bring him in. They arrange to meet in an alley way, wher Turner will be met by his superior, and an old friend.

When Turner arrives at the alleyway, it is an ambush. His friend is shot, and the assassin tries to kill Turner. Turner flees. But now, he is not only wanted by the bad guys, he is wanted by the C.I.A. too. He can trust nobody.

The romantic interest in the movie is Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway). When I say romantic interest, I actually mean kidnap victim. Turner takes her hostage at gunpoint and uses her apartment as a base and a place to hideout. The whole interlude between Hale and Turner is the weak point in the movie. Initially she is worried about being raped, but before the end of the night she is doing the horizontal mambo. That’s even after he had tied her up and gagged her, leaving her on the toilet seat for hour. I don’t know about you, but I’d be quite pissed off at someone like that, and would hold a grudge.

Maybe Pollack’s reasoning (in one of the more wanky sex scenes in a spy movie) is that Hale has a fascination with death. She photographs moody street scenes with nobody in them, and trees with no leaves. During the sex act, we aren’t shown Redford and Dunaway going at it like rabbits. No, instead we see Hale’s photographs. We see the loneliness, and the dark side of her character, which craves a touch of death. Maybe that’s what she sees in Turner – a touch of death.

The film has a rather eerie ending, where Turner shaking his head in disbelief mutters, “Oil! This whole damn thing was about oil.” What can you say? It all seems like it could be ripped from today’s newspaper headlines. Despite the weird relationship between Turner and Hale, this is an absolutely fantastic film, and one that I highly recommend.

This review is based on the Studio Canal / Universal DVD Australia

Three Days Of The Condor (1975)

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