Three Days of the Condor (1975)
Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Genre: Spy Running Time: 1 hr. 57 min.

Release Date: September 24th, 1975 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Sydney Pollack Actors: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von Sydow, Addison Powell, Tina Chen

 


 

C

ompared to modern action films full of violence and destruction, “Three Days of the Condor” is noticeably outdated. It doesn’t make use of the limited fight sequences, explosions, or momentary bloodshed to weave its story, instead relying on genuine mystery and suspense. But that’s one of its strengths. A focus on character development, an involving mystery, likeable villains, crafty dialogue, and excellent chemistry between lead players Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway make this Sidney Pollack thriller enjoyable and thought-provoking, even if the adventure is admittedly mild.

Dick Tracy-loving, comic-book enthusiast Joseph Turner (Robert Redford) works at the American Literary Historical Society – a front for a CIA division that researches every published, written document. Turner is certainly no field agent and is completely untrained with weaponry. He spends the majority of his time reading, wooing the female workers in the office, and getting on the nerves of his more serious male coworkers.

A surprise attack on the building by a group of armed mercenaries finds everyone murdered except for Turner, unknowingly and quite luckily out for lunch. Upon his return, he phones his CIA contact, is reminded of his code name “Condor,” and arranges to be safely brought in. But it becomes tragically apparent that no one can be trusted when his friends start shooting at him and cold-blooded hitmen trail him closely. In his desperation, Turner kidnaps Katherine Hale (Faye Dunaway), a random woman in the wrong place at the wrong time, initially for transportation and a place to stay, and later for someone uninvolved to rely upon.

Groovy ‘70s music by Dave Grusin peppers the mayhem, and an unshakeable dread soaks through the themes of corrupt government emissaries, shifting allegiances, and stealthy assassins. But then there’s Kathy, who suffers from an extremely accelerated form of Stockholm syndrome, giving an excuse for witty banter between Dunaway and Redford, but also causing many unfathomable moments. Passionate lovemaking with a captor on the same day of her kidnapping isn’t likely in any situation – even if the rugged and charming Redford doesn’t pose much of a threat. Short-lived but wickedly humorous, this duo’s romance represents a large portion of the entertainment, even if it’s entirely unbelievable.

At the center of it all is the “trust no one” motif, the mounting paranoia from enemies out to get Condor, the disassociation from the normal world, and betrayal from within his own networks. “I believe what you told me,” murmurs Hale. “No you don’t,” responds Condor, admitting that his story doesn’t even make much sense to himself. The suspense builds as she becomes integral to his plan, slick gunman Joubert (Max Von Sydow) stalks his prey, and the CIA, devoid of dependable allies, plots to bring in the lone survivor at any cost. But as all the pieces begin coming together, the resolution slows, flawing the pacing that had started so smartly. The ending clouds the line between right and wrong, good and evil, and even reality and fabrication; it’s an intelligent battle of truths and a game of renegade operations and questionable politics – an adept spy movie but an average thriller. Undoubtedly, the novel by James Grady (titled “Six Days of the Condor,” for which the film adaptation appropriately cut in half) could shed more light on this intriguing story.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10