- Directed by Sydney Pollack
- September 24, 1975 (US)
A CIA researcher returns from lunch only to find his whole office murdered. On the run he is forced to try and outwit those responsible.
Three Days of the Condor is one movie I avoided through the years and then because it got old people stopped showing it and I started wanting to see it because I had matured. When I first learned of the existence of Three Days of the Condor, I was very much into Star Trek and Star Wars and Arnold Schwarzenegger action movies. I still am BTW. A political spy thriller was not tops of my list back then.
So here I am now having watched it for the first time and I enjoyed it. I cannot say I was blown away, but it was interesting. There were plenty of twists and turns along with a solid internal logic and an effective yet ambiguous ending.
Robert Redford stars as Joe Turner who is the agent codenamed Condor and gets those titular three days. Turner is not a James Bond type but rather a CIA analyst whose job is to read. Read what you might ask? Books from multiple countries and languages to look for new ideas or perhaps just general oddities.
One book that has had multiple translations despite poor sales catches Turner’s eye and he sends a report up the chain of command. In rather noticeable fashion Turner’s entire office is killed while he is making a lunch run. Quite a stroke of good luck. You would think professional assassins would make sure everyone was either in the office or follow anyone that left or just wait for them to come back. Turner lucked out and got the guys having an off day at work.
Then again if Three Days of the Condor had been 100% logical it would have been a pretty short movie. Anyway our hero escapes and hooks up with Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway) and from there he’s on the run facing off against a mysterious assassin played by Max von Sydow.
Max von Sydow‘s character of Joubert goes through a bit of a change during the course of the film. At least in how you can perceive him. You think he is this cold-blooded killer but by the end of the film you realize he’s just a guy doing his job. He has no more interest in the life or death of Turner than he does in that of anyone else. He only cares so long as he is getting paid. Found that rather interesting.
Turner starts out as the too cool for school office guy. The character reminded me of a few people that got on my nerves that I have worked with over the years. However once the killing starts and he has to run for his life Turner becomes a much more interesting and likable character. He is much more average and relatable.
In the narrative Turner is an amateur out of his element but what helps him is that he has read about it. Literature has given him a wealth of ideas to draw upon to analyze the situation as well as to survive in it. Brains over brawn and not someone becoming a super soldier after one bullet. Movies far to often make the character on the run into a super fighter after the first bullet. This was a nice retro change of pace.
This brings me to something else. The one fight scene that comes to my mind is not highly stylized. Turner must face off against The Mailman (Hank Garrett). The Mailman is a much better fighter than Turner. He clearly has training and experience. Most interesting of all the fight is more like a sloppy struggle on the part of Turner than it is anything else. It’s a sense of realism lacking in James Bond films. And that’s not a cut on James Bond. I watch them for the escapist fun.
Kathy as Turner’s love interest comes into the film at just the right time to help him move along and do his investigation before exiting and quite possibly continuing on with her life. She borders on token girlfriend, but she is actually involved in aiding our hero and at points proves herself capable enough. However in total her part in this film was to provide a vehicle and a place where Turner could safely rest. She was more or less extraneous. Much of what she did could’ve been accomplished by Turner on his own in one way or another.
The direction is good and helps build tension. The ambiguous ending doesn’t feel like a bait and switch but rather a natural outgrowth of elements introduced throughout the film. There is a little more realism here and not everything in life gets wrapped neatly up.
The performances by Dunaway and Redford are what holds this movie together as they are the three most significant characters. Cliff Robertson isn’t bad, but his character of Higgins only has a really good moment in the closing minutes of the film when he implies that Redford’s character might not be as safe as he thought he would be. I wish they had given him something a little meatier to work with. I’m not saying he was terrible, but he just didn’t shine.
Three Days of the Condor is a good spy thriller. It manages to engage your mind with good performances and a solid story. I will not call this great, but it is worth a look!