THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR was the 5th most-popular box-office attraction of 1975, and—apart from obvious advances in technology—holds up as an audience-hooking conspiracy thriller, well-paced by director Sydney Pollack, in his 4th of seven collaborations with star Robert Redford.
“Boy, what is it with you people? You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?”
Junior-level C.I.A. analyst ‘Joe Turner’ (Redford) has an agency code-name, ‘Condor’, but his mundane job in a small New York City facility is just to read books of all sorts and see if his summaries provide keywords that collate in the computer to possible links and breaks in agency operations. He’s out getting lunch when the office is invaded and his co-workers slaughtered. Calling in to his superior (Cliff Robertson) turns out to be a mistake, and he goes on the run, trying to make sense of his predicament and keep ahead of assassins, led by apparent rogue freelancer ‘Jouvert’ (Max von Sydow). Turner snap-decision kidnaps ‘Kathy’ (Faye Dunaway), and uses her vehicle for transport and condo for refuge. In age-old thriller-movie tradition (in which convenience serves the plot rather than logic), beautiful hostage Kathy becomes Joe’s temporary but willing partner.
The phony-baloney love scene dropped in for Movie Star Sex Chemistry is absurd, but otherwise the plot skips through its 117 minutes apace and the cast is good, especially Redford. Along with smooching Faye (tough job, yet..), he has an excitingly choreographed hand-to-hand fight with ‘The Mailman’ (Hank Garrett). Popcorn stuff, but who doesn’t like popcorn? (you can bet the CIA knows)
Though both Pollack and Redford were committed political liberals, their intent was simply to make a timely genre nail-biter, joining the suspicion-soaked field of the era’s ‘paranoia pictures’, but the filming coincided with the publishing of dark new revelations about the C.I.A., so by default it carried more overtly political heft, which worked for the box-office, yet then invited critics to accuse it of not going far enough. You can’t please everyone, and there are some you can never please. *
Lorenzo Temple Jr. and David Rayfiel wrote the script, based off James Grady’s novel “Six Days Of The Condor.” Low key music score is by Dave Grusin. Cast includes John Houseman and Tina Chen. An Oscar nominee for Film Editing, the $7,800,000 production grossed $60,600,000, according to Cogerson’s reckoning.
* For an interesting look at Pollack’s comeback to a critic, read http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC10-11folder/PollackMcGilligan.html