Movie Review 2007 #16: Three Days of the Condor

A forerunner of many modern spy movies and series, from Alias to the Bourne Identity, starring Robert Redford and directed by Sydney Pollack.


I vaguely remembering borrowing and reading the novel that this is based upon years ago.
The movie is surprisingly, scarily topical, even today.
Redford plays Joe Turner, who works for the American Literary Historical Society, a front operation for the CIA. A “reader”, he apparently reads everything and everything, looking for clues, ideas, and things of interest for the CIA. When he comes back from lunch one day to find the rest of the staff murdered, he goes on the run, not sure of who or what he can trust…
The archetypal paranoia conspiracy spy movie, Three Days of the Condor, aside from the 70’s visuals, has a modern feel with its pacing and continual movement of pieces on the board. There isn’t a lot of down time as Redford keeps on the movie, trying to figure out who killed his co-workers, and more importantly, just what is so important that they were worth being killed for.
Faye Dunaway plays a random woman who Redford kidnaps as a means of protection and sanctuary. I wasn’t that thrilled with her role as written, since she goes from suspicious and tied up to naked in an unbelievably short period of time, IMO. Much better are Max Von Sydow as an assassin, Cliff Robertson as a CIA bureaucrat and the great John Houseman as a senior CIA official .
The movie is firmly grounded in the 70’s and I did feel a little weird seeing scenes set in the World Trade Center, only a couple of years old when the movie came out. Still, the movie’s themes are timeless. I can see how many movies and TV shows since have borrowed from this movie, or, when they have faltered, they might have done better remembering the virtues of the movie.
The ultimate reason for why Redford’s co-workers had to die is stunningly topical and appropriately cynical. Its a ambiguous ending to the movie, I suspect a remake would make things a little more clear cut.
Still, Redford does a great job as does the cast in general (aside from the unbelievability of Dunaway’s character). if you are interested in spy, conspiracy movies and the genre in general, you owe it to yourself to see this movie as one of the seminal movies of the genre.