THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, 1975
Cast: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von Sydow, John Houseman, Addison Powell, Tina Chen
A man named Turner works for the CIA reading books and postulating possible scenarios that could be applied to inteliigence work. He goes out to get lunch but when he returns everyone at the center has been killed. He calls his superior and asks for someone to bring him in, he tells him that his section chief will get him but when he arrives, the man tries to shoot him, he manages to shoot back and escape. In an act of desparation, the abducts a woman and forces her to shelter him until he can figure out what is going on. When someone goes to the woman's house and tries to kill him, he kills the man and discovers that he has a connection to the CIA, which means that someone in the CIA is behind the attempt on him.
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In the 70s, with distrust of the government and paranoia at a fever pitch after the Watergate scandal that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency in disgrace, Hollywood capitalized on that fear with a new genre of film: the political thriller. The plots of these films became were more complex and intricate than those that had come before, the bad guys were now bureaucrats and government officials, and the heroes were normal, everyday people who were determined to expose corruption. These movies were fairly bleak, as well; more often than not, if the hero could actually prove that he was right nobody would believe him. Three Days of the Condor, starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway, has all of the elements of the classic political thriller and has become a classic in the genre.
Joe Turner is a CIA analyst; his job is to read books from around the world and report on any new ideas that can be gleaned from them. One day, while he is out of the office, all of his co-workers are assassinated. Panicking, Turner calls the CIA, who promise him that he will be brought in and kept safe. When he meets up with them, however, things do not go as planned, and Turner is forced to go on the lam. He kidnaps a woman and forces her to take him to her apartment, so he can hide out. Their relationship is hostile at first, for obvious reasons, but they soon grow to trust each other. When an assassin comes to kill him, Turner realizes that he can’t trust anybody, not even his superiors at the CIA, and decides to take matters into his own hands. He learns that he is being hunted because of a report he filed, which accidentally uncovered a secret plan within the CIA to invade oil producing countries around the world. Even though the plan is scrapped, Turner still does everything he can to reveal the plot to the world, though it is unclear whether he has succeeded in uncovering the truth.
What makes Three Days of the Condor such a good film is that it is almost entirely believable. When the plot is eventually revealed, it is chillingly plausible, and some might even go so far as to say that it has actually happened in the years since. The bad guys in this movie aren’t James Bond villains or Machiavellian madmen trying to take over the world; they are businessmen, thinking only about the bottom-line and not caring about what stands in their way. The government has become morally bankrupt, willing to invade other nations and disrupt governments for their own ends.
The director of the film, Sydney Pollack, does an excellent job of keeping up the suspense, even when Turner is not in any immediate danger. Suspicion and dread are all over this film, and the characters are never truly safe. Pollack was an eclectic director, who could work in almost every genre of film. His film prior to this one was The Way We Were (1973), a romantic drama, also starring Redford, along with Barbra Streisand. His most famous film is, perhaps, Tootsie (1982) a satirical comedy. Pollack was nominated for a Best Director Academy Award three times, for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They (1969), Tootsie, and Out of Africa (1985), for which he won the award.
Films can be seen as a reflection of the mood of the country at the time they are made. The films of the 30s, for example, often reflect the harsh economic conditions of the times, and films of the last decade often show the fear and vulnerability the world felt post-9/11. The films of the 1970s show a massive distrust of government and authority figures in general, which still persists to this day. The plot of Three Days of the Condor, which was based on the novel Six Days of the Condor by James Grady, feels just as fresh and current now as it did in 1975.