Sunday, March 28, 2010

Three Days Of The Condor

I just finished watching the wonderful movie, Three Days Of The Condor, which was released in 1975 but is still as fresh & relevant as anything out in the multiplexes of today. Matt Damon's Bourne Trilogy comes to mind as similar in terms of entertainment, although Three Days Of The Condor is less frenetic and certainly less fraught with flagrant implausibilities.

Directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway, this espionage thriller pits Redford's CIA bookworm against trained assassins in a byzantine plot where accident & coincidence play as large a role as tradecraft & pluck. Dunaway plays a young photographer who unwittingly gets dragged into this nightmare. Max Von Sydow & Cliff Robertson round out the cast.

The mid-70's tech & Dave Grusin's jazzy score firmly place this movie in its era, but what causes real pangs of nostalgia are the shots of the late, lamented World Trade Center, especially the scenes in which Cliff Robertson's character holds meetings in his WTC corner office, where the windows look out over the Manhattan skyline.

Spy movies always tax my disbelief, but Three Days Of The Condor manages to remain credible in its depiction of an intelligence community rife with bureaucratic firewalls and opportunistic rivals. The CIA's own response to the initial "wet-work" that kicks off the movie is, to me, appropriately governmental. Even the obligatory relationship between Redford's & Dunaway's characters is handled with just the right touch, although Pollack's use of cutaways to her character's putative artwork struck me as inadvertently hilarious.

Espionage is about secrets, and when the secrets of Three Days Of The Condor are revealed, they actually pay off in a way that doesn't insult the audience's intelligence. Moreover, the ramifications of those secrets, as delivered by Cliff Robertson, sound as if they could have been uttered by current officials of the Central Intelligence Agency. Redford's character's wide-eyed idealism has been sorely tested by this point, but it doesn't break, and the movie concludes with a pitch-perfect note of uncertainty. As an audience, we have been paid off without having been pandered to.

directed by Sydney Pollack
starring Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Max Von Sydow and Cliff Robertson


  1. I always felt that the indignation of Redford's character strained disbelief. The guy worked for the CIA in however innocuous a role. He was still working for the CIA.

    Speaking of spy films, I wonder if you've seen the wonderful Michael Caine film, The Ipcress File.

  2. You know, you're right about Redford's character, except for this: the whole preposterous set-up under which he worked (the American Literary Society or something) could conceivably insulate a character such as Redford from the reality that he was working for an agency capable of turning on him.

    He has that line where he says his job was to read novels and input the plotlines into a computer so they could be analyzed. So it's clear the movie is trying to portray him as an ivory-towered, insulated bookworm.

    And, I know I've seen the Ipcress File, but I don't remember it. Thanks for the tip.