Eye For Film >> Movies >> Three Days Of The Condor (1975) Film Review
Sydney Pollack's Three Days Of The Condor was one of a cohort of films, including The Parallax View and The Conversation and, of course, All The President's Men, that fed on a belief in conspiracy theories bolstered by the 1972 Watergate Scandal - but while its thriller elements deliver, the film is undermined by a subplot that was surely over-egged even when it was made and which has only been further diminished by the passage of time.
Pollack definitely scored in terms of his leading man. Although he lost his first choice, Warren Beatty, to The Parallax View (also co-scripted by Lorenzo Semple Jr), Robert Redford was no box office slouch, having already become a household name via films such as Barefoot In The Park, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, The Sting and The Great Gatsby. He brings a twinkly everyman quality to Joseph Turner, an anti-authority type, who turns up late to work, doesn't wear a tie and sneaks out the back way for lunch, smoothing over his shortcomings with a winning smile.
Ostensibly working for the American Literary Historical Society, it is really a front for an obscure arm of the CIA who read books for a living in a bid to uncover codes or a titbit of spy fiction that can be put to use in the real world. His rainy day lunch shortcut is to prove his saviour when he happens to be ordering a reuben to go when an assassin (Max von Sydow) and his crew target the team. Arriving back to the scene of the massacre, Turner tries to call it in to his bosses only to find himself on the lam without a plan.
The plot doesn't so much thicken as arrive in chunky-but-not-always-satisfying slices that are wrapped around a redundant romance between Turner and Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway), a woman whom he kidnaps. In addition to being asked to believe that fear and paranoia are tremendous aphrodisacs, we are also expected to set aside the fact that Turner has, mere hours earlier, held his dead girlfriend in his arms, all of which adds an element of additional queasiness to Pollack's laughingly languid sex scene.
The chemistry between Redford and Sydow is more plausible, as we come to learn what makes the assassin tick and watch Redford's easygoing demeanour crack by degrees. While never reaching the heights of character study achieved by The Conversation, Pollack does present a delicate palette of loneliness, from the hauntingly empty photos taken by Hale - who, in another problem with the romance plot, has struggled to find connection - to the yawning chasm of isolation that Turner suddenly finds opening up before him. Three Days Of The Condor may not quite soar as high as the best of the conspiracy thrillers but it is lifted by good performances, a decent dollop of directorial style and the bracing ambivalence of its conclusion.Reviewed on: 26 Apr 2016