THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR (Sydney Pollack, 1975)

“Maybe there’s another C.I.A. inside the C.I.A.”

Long, tedious, mostly silly thriller, largely plagiarized from Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935) and North by Northwest (1959), but executed without juice, wit or joy of any kind, Three Days of the Condor is a punishing thing to experience. It is a nasty film involving a man on the run, a C.I.A. reader out in the cold because he guessed at a rogue agent’s planned operation involving a foreign U.S. invasion in pursuit of oil.
     The film is expertly edited; but four things seal its doom as either art or entertainment. One is the incompetence of the director, Sydney Pollack, who fails utterly to create the necessary distancing that might have kept the film from becoming merely a paranoid thriller. Rather than a pile of worries Pollack might have made a film about things that the audience should worry about—what, it appears, scenarists Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfiel in fact intended. (They have adapted James Grady’s novel Six Days of the Condor.) Another shortfall comes with the lead performance. Robert Redford, normally a succinct, appealing actor, is all over the place as Joe Turner, code name “the Condor,” generating not the slightest sympathy. One thus watches Turner’s flight for life without interest or concern. Similarly, with her stockpile of scenery-chewing mannerisms, Faye Dunaway is ridiculous in the Madeleine Carroll-part, here, photographer Kathy, and to make matters worse Pollack has concocted a scene of lovemaking between the two characters that involves spliced-in zoom-outs on a series of Kathy’s desolate black-and-white photographs. Until Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005) this would remain the most laughably presented sexual interlude in cinema. Finally, Pollack generates what suspense he does purely through the use of boo-tactics.
     Tawdry, monotonous, unpleasant.

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