Friday, November 8, 2013

3 Days of the Condor (1975)

3 Days of the CondorI first saw this suspense/spy thriller when it was first released in the theaters sometime in the late 1970s, while living in London and working for the American government. There's nothing that compares with the paranoia associated with seeing a taut spy thriller, only to exit the theater into a cold, foggy late evening in downtown London. The picture it paints of a murderous renegade network operating within the Central Intelligence Agency is both frightening and plausible, and is delivered by Robert Redford and his production team in a tight, well-developed tale with a convincing thread of interconnecting events that spins way out of control as the protagonist tries desperately to figure out who is at the center of the plot and why he and his cohorts at a special studies institute sponsored by the Agency are targets. For me, this movie is a nonstop roller-coaster ride, with Redford trying in vain to jump off the damn thing before it crashes below!

The level of paranoia as well as the multiple levels of deceit and deception depicted in the film seemed a bit outlandish at the time, but given the temper of the times, it somehow seemed much more plausible in the backwash of Watergate and all that was revealed about the machinations of the so-called "invisible government" then. The hero's ability to parse together the facts and learn and adapt as he progresses makes the movie work especially well, and one can relate to his growing frustration as he realizes there just may not be any way out alive. And between the margins of the scenes lie some intriguing questions regarding the role of secrecy in an open and supposedly democratic society that add a measure of intellectual acumen and "gravitas" to the tale.

So popular was this movie at the box office that it spawned a number of other spy thrillers in its wake. The film's cast included not only Redford as the hero, but also starred Fay Dunaway, and Cliff Robertson. This movie makes for an absorbing evening of entertainment, and a surefire way to escape the humdrum of everyday life with a stunning tale of murder, mayhem, and betrayal. I highly recommend this flick. Enjoy!

What is it about this movie that makes it so compelling? After countless viewings, I still can't put my finger on it -but let's consider the crucial elements of "Condor."

First, the paucity of dialogue -in other words, what Redford displays and emotes rather than says -is powerful. It seems that for the first time in his career, Redford is really challenged to act instead of being just another pretty cinematic face. If ever a man could give the impression of being both haunted and hunted, Redford's a cinch in "Condor."

This is also a great New York City film. Its streets, back alleys, and buildings -in particular, the World Trade Center -all play supporting roles. Sidney Pollack makes good use of the then-newly finished twin towers in "Condor," and this viewer lamented their destruction after watching scenes featuring the main lobby and a top-floor office inhabited by CIA deputy director Cliff Robertson.

The grainy quality of the film, matched with an often funky, sometimes melancholy soundtrack scored by Dave Grusin, also adds to the aura of "Condor." It's as if Pollack attempted to do an American sendup of a French intrigue film. Grusin's music also is not what you'd expect in a spy film, in that it has not a hint of the James Bond sound. Then again, the film is not a romantic spy thriller, so it works.

In fact, Pollack and Redford successfuly convey a post-Watergate paranoia that the citizens' government is 'out there' and will stop at nothing to hunt down the truth-seeking rogue. Phone taps and plumbers (disguised, this time, as mailmen) abound. Suitably, "Three Days of the Condor" ends with a very anti-establishment message.

This film deserves to be placed in the list of top twenty great American films of the modern cinematic era (however one judges that). "Condor" is good the first time around and seems to be more enjoyable with subsequent viewings. Far from being a period piece, it stands the test of time as a thriller that is also thoughtful.

Buy 3 Days of the Condor (1975) Now

THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR is one of the finest espionage thrillers ever filmed. But it's not just entertaining. The script is thought-provoking and reflects fears and paranoias that still pervade our country's consciousness today. Robert Redford has never been better. His character is a refreshing hero who succeeds using his brain, not his brawn or some ridiculous firepower. There are so many great supporting performances as well, including Cliff Robertson, John Houseman and Faye Dunaway (who looks simply gorgeous). Max VonSydow plays the ultimate assasin for hire, equalled only by Edward Fox's turn in THE DAY OF THE JACKAL. The film's editing is perfect and the music score (by Dave Grusin) still sounds great, (quite a feat since the music from many films of this period sound terribly dated). All in all, I consider this possibly the best example of a domestic (versus international) espionage thriller and faultless in all aspects of production. The final freeze-frame shot is a stunner.

Read Best Reviews of 3 Days of the Condor (1975) Here

I first saw this movie when it was released in 1975. I was seven years old and it had me on the edge of my seat. Twenty five years later it still moves along. It's aged very easily. Redford does an excellent job as a man who has no experience, or training, as a field operative. All he has going for him is his intelligence and the fact that he reads spy novels and murder mysteries for a living.He makes mistakes, but he also makes several brilliant moves that a sesoned operative would never consider, which is one reason why he survives. His actions seem believable. He's an ordinary man having to cope with an extraordinary situation. Max von Sydow and Cliff Robertson are also very good and though it is a small part John Houseman shines as one of the grand old men of the CIA. Though the technology has aged, as well as some of the field techniques ,much of it is still very relevant as is the motivation for wiping out Condor's entire department. It actually is a nice little twist when the truth is revealed. This is truely a classic espionge thriller. Though I enjoy the Bond movies 3 Days of the Condor belongs under the realistic category.In my opinion it leaves Tom Clancy and Jack Ryan in the dirt.

Want 3 Days of the Condor (1975) Discount?

Film has very problematic picture and sound quality on Blu-Ray. It's a great 70s era "conspiracy" film, and very slow and talky in the Sydney Pollack way, that appears rather quaint and naive considering what we have learned about the way the world works since then.

The source transfer for "3 Days of the Condor" has obviously not been re-done for Blu-Ray, and appears to be the same source transfer used for the much older DVD edition of this film. Although the superior medium and capabilities of a 1080p Blu-Ray disc make this an upgraded way to view this material, the limitations of an aging source transfer abound and call attention to themselves. Detail is good in well lit scenes, much less so on indirectly lit surfaces and shadows. Blacks are unstable, noisy and milky. Skin tone and texture show the waxy effect of DNR (digital noise reduction). Much of the "grain" appears to be tele-cine noise, much more than the actual grain in the original material. The sound is mediocre. All in all a better view than the DVD version. But only worth renting, or if it can be purchased used or on mark down at $10 or less. A fine film. But this Blu-Ray edition is certainly not worth $20.

Save 50% Off

No comments:

Post a Comment