Review: Three Days of the Condor (1975)

In 1972, the national government of the United States of America experienced a blow to its credibility with the citizens of the country unlike it had ever experienced before. As a result, many of the movies and books published in the early to middle 1970s ushered in a tidal wave of critique of the government. One such movie was the 1975 hit Three Days of the Condor directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford. When I heard that Captain America: The Winter Soldier was based upon this movie and its conspiracy-thriller genre from the 1970s, I had to watch the film. Add in to this mix that Robert Redford is now the antagonist of the Marvel sequel.

The film is adapted from James Grady’s 1974 novel, Six Days of the Condor, about drugs being brought in through Laos. Redford plays Joe Turner, an employee for the CIA whose office reads every book and newspaper and journal to find new ideas and look for existing CIA operations being encoded. The movie unfolds as Turner finds his entire office brutally murdered and he has to find out why. Enlisting the help of a loner photographer in Katherine Hale, played by Faye Dunaway, Turner follows the evidence up to the top of the CIA to find out that he had stumbled upon a plot to overtake the Middle East for its oil.

This film is deserving of every award it received. The plotting and scripting is tight. I never felt lost in the narrative, trying to keep up. The mystery was one that kept me on the edge of my seat. Pollack did an excellent job of giving time to review what was learned so that there are no apparent leaps of logic for the audience, forcing them to watch a second time just to figure out what the heck had happened. I love the film’s cinematography. The way Pollack uses pans and zooms, typical of the 1970s, is so awesome. I love it and wish I could see more of it in today’s movies.

I loved the critique that the film offered too, its message. Richard Nixon had attempted to work a government coverup of the Watergate break-in and was busted, forced to resign to avoid impeachment and conviction. It was this abuse of power that the film addresses. The CIA becomes the stand-in for the government. The CIA was planning something terrible in the Middle East and was trying to cover it up, like Nixon. Redford exposes it and brings it to light, risking his own life in the process.

But the film pushes its critique even deeper. The CIA called the operation a “game.” The CIA was just playing games. But these games killed 7 people in Redford’s office, and tried to kill Redford as well. The CIA didn’t understand the seriousness of what they were doing. They were playing games with the USSR’s KGB and GRU and innocent people were killed along the way. Better to keep what they found out away from the public because the public is too stupid to understand.

When Redford puts everything together at the home of Deputy Director of the Middle East, we see that the mystery of a second intelligence network within the CIA that the agency wasn’t aware of wasn’t the conspiracy. It was a full blown conspiracy going to the top. The decision makers of the CIA were involved and aware. The movie was saying that the government was playing games and trying to keep its people in the dark.

The solution of the film wasn’t what we normally think it would be in our normal political discourse. Some would say that we need a smaller government. But the movie says that the governed need to be told the truth. The games have to end. Given the state of our current political climate, the government stopping the games and being honest with its people is very real. It’s a film for our own day as much as 1975 and the post-Watergate era.

Go watch this movie. If the themes and message of the film doesn’t grab you, the story and genre will. It’s a great viewing experience.


~ by hankimler on November 26, 2013.

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