Release: 11th April 2016
Format: BR / DVD
On a seemingly ordinary day, Joe Turner (Robert Redford), a quiet CIA codebreaker, walks into his workplace and finds that all of his coworkers have been murdered. Horrified, Joe flees the scene and tries to tell his supervisors about the tragedy. Unfortunately, he soon learns that CIA higher-ups were involved in the murders. With no one to trust, and a merciless hit man (Max von Sydow) close on his tail, Joe must somehow survive long enough to figure out why his own agency wants him dead.
The seventies was an excellent time for American cinema, most noticeably in its ability to produce high-profile political thrillers. The ink hadn’t even dried on Nixon’s resignation papers, when picture houses around the world were aflutter with what would become a designated genre of film. At ground zero, a film that somehow pre-empted yet became central to Watergate parables, Three Days of the Condor was a one-two home-run for conspiracy cinema and Robert Redford’s career; the other, of course, being All The President’s Men, which followed the next year.
Interesting fact, The Parallax View was actually a bastard offspring from failed negotiations of Condor’s development. Condor was filming while the details of Nixon’s dirty deeds were becoming public. This makes Condor all the more important as a cinematic barometer. This is one of the many tidbits of casual information you’ll learn from this release of Sydney Pollock’s classic; a feature awash with casual academia.
One of the more shocking and poignant images of Condor, however, could not have been foreseen. It is only now, in our current climate of seemingly rising gun crime, which the film’s more brutal moments come to the fore. The scene in question is the film’s inciting incident, where three men (going…postal??) storm the clandestine office of the CIA, and quietly gun down its occupants. Pollock’s direction of the sequence is stellar. It’s lack of tension and seemingly innocuous monotony (“can you move away from the window, please”) makes the scene all the more horrific. And this is where Condor finds most of its strength, in its more trivial and systematic approaches to the cloak and dagger world of spies. Much as John la Carre was doing over in Blighty with his Karla novels, the likes of Pollock made visually entertaining in Condor.
Condor is the sort of film that makes you jealous of 70’s audiences. Imagine a world where one of the year’s biggest releases involved a hero who… rides a bicycle, reads books for a living, and spends two-thirds of the movie skulking in an apartment. This came hot off of the heels of another film where a man….listens to conversations, and was succeeded by a journalistic drama which involves 2 hours of men trying to interview people. This was a time when audiences wanted more than goodies and baddies; they wanted a psychological experience that helped them make sense of the world.
Three Days of the Condor does look dated in places (despite Eureka’s wonderful transfer), and can be rather confusing on a first viewing. It shows you about 40% of what is happening, and tells you even less. Condor is a puzzle that encourages audiences to make on their own. Depending on your mood, this can make viewing Condor a very enriching or very frustrating experience. Truth be told, you’ll likely find it to be the former rather than the latter.
Film Grade: B+
Three Days of the Condor comes with sparse yet rather in-depth features. The 32-page booklet is it best offering; with some wonderful insights into the film’s legacy, timely appearance, and subsequent place in history. Who’d’ve thought Richard Nixon could actually be to thank for this one!?
The interview with film historian Sheldon Hall is interesting, and very informed. But is does just amount to one man talking at us for 30 minutes. While The Directors: Sydney Pollack is a re-packaging of something from goodness knows when. I want to say the 90’s?
Special Features Grade: B
A stone cold classic that has been lovingly rendered onto Blu-Ray and DVD. A few more extras would not have gone amiss, but hey, it aint half bad.