Thursday, October 23, 2008

Christmas Crime: Three Days of the Condor directed by Sydney Pollack (starring Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow, Cliff Robertson, John Houseman)

Three Days of the Condor (1975). Screenplay by Lorenzo Semple, Jr., and David Rayfiel from the book Six Days of the Condor by James Grady.

Joseph Turner (Robert Redford once again as the all-American) gets to read for a living, analyzing texts for the CIA through the cover of the "American Literary Historical Society." When it's his turn to go out for everybody's lunch, he comes back to find them all dead.

From then on, Turner (code name "Condor") is on the run — from the killers and from the government — with only photographer Kathy (striking Faye Dunaway) his only, albeit reluctant, ally.

Setting Three Days of the Condor during the Christmas season does little to bring tidings of comfort and joy. But the script by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. (The Parallax View) and David Rayfiel — and the direction of Sydney Pollack (his fourth of seven collaborations with Redford) — deliver the right amounts of post-Watergate paranoia and intrigue.

As an enigmatic professional killer, Max von Sydow heads an impressive supporting cast that also features Cliff Robertson and John Houseman. (Keep an eye out for von Sydow's code name. It is a nice little in-joke connected to his appearance in The Exorcist.) The result in a fun thriller that, while very tied to its period, also reminds us that the priorities of the government have been the same for a long time.

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