Friday, April 18, 2014


I recently read somewhere that when Robert Redford was offered a part in this year's CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLIDER, he read the script and replied, "this reminds me of THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR." He was right. Both films feature secret agencies within secret agencies. In CAPTAIN AMERICA, it's HYDRA within S.H.I.E.L.D.. In CONDOR, it's a rogue cell within the CIA.

I remember seeing THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975) on first release at the old Capital Plaza Cinema (when it was still just a one-screen theater). I was in college at the time and I enjoyed the film. I watched it again the other day for the first time in thirty-nine years and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it still holds up very well as an intelligent suspense film that resonates with 1970s paranoia.

Redford stars a "reader" for the CIA. He and his team are tasked with reading everything they can get their hands on: books (fiction and non-fiction), newspapers, magazines, etc. They search for anything that might be coded information about actual or proposed CIA operations. Redford discovers something and submits a report to his superiors. That report sends up a red flag and every one in Redford's small office is soon murdered in a lunch-time attack. Redford, who was literally out for lunch at the time, survives and must go on the run to find out what's going on.

He very quickly discovers that he can trust no one. Mysterious agent Cliff Robertson may or may not be telling him the truth, there's a deadly assassin (Max Von Sydow) on his trail and Redford's only ally is single woman Faye Dunaway, who first resists and fears him but soon comes to sympathize with him which leads to a night of love making.

For a guy who "just reads book" and wasn't trained as a field agent, Redford proves remarkably adept at staying one step ahead of his pursuers. He uses his wits and innate intelligence to navigate the suddenly deadly streets of New York City and eventually discovers the truth about what led to the mass murders. The ending of the film is appropriately ambiguous and leaves the viewer wondering if The New York Times will print the story Redford has given them.

While watching the film, I was struck by how well director Sydney Pollack orchestrates everything. There's only one fight scene in the entire film but there is plenty of suspense and danger. If this movie was remade for today's audiences it would star some peach-fuzzed nobody in the lead role and would be wall-to-wall kinetic action scenes with beau coup fight scenes, car and foot chases, gun battles and explosions. Lots of explosions.

Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack were an unbeatable combination of actor and director. They made six films together: JEREMIAH JOHNSON (1972), THE WAY WE WERE (1973), THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (1975), THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN (1979), the multiple Oscar winner OUT OF AFRICA (1985) and HAVANA (1990).

Oddly enough, the four main stars in CONDOR would all later appear in films based on comic books. Max Von Sydow appeared in both FLASH GORDON (1980) and JUDGE DREDD (1995), Faye Dunaway was in SUPERGIRL (1984), Cliff Robertson played Uncle Ben in Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN (2002) and of course Redford is in the current CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER.


No comments:

Post a Comment