Three Days Of The Condor

cast: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von Sydow, and John Houseman

director: Sydney Pollack

118 minutes (15) 1975
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Eureka blu-ray region B
[released 11 April]

RATING: 7/10
review by Christopher Geary

Three Days Of The Condor

“Do we have plans to invade the middle-east?” Four decades after it was made, this is still a movie with a modern relevance that borders on the otherworldly in terms of its curious prescience and moral complexities.

Late for work one day, Joe (Robert Redford) has an uneventful morning until he goes out in the rain to fetch the staff’s orders for lunch. When he gets back to the office, he finds everybody is dead: all of his colleagues have been ruthlessly murdered by the hit squad led by Joubert (Max von Sydow, later to play Ming in Flash Gordon, 1980). Joe is “not a field agent,” he’s a CIA researcher who “just reads books,” so his tactics are random, and his coping strategy is learned from abstract theory not practical experience.

Based on a reportedly mundane novel, titled Six Days Of The Condor, this was turned into a superbly engaging suspense thriller concerning the plot of “another CIA, inside the CIA” and a lone hero’s attempts to expose the conspiracy. Joe survives, at large in the city, mainly because he’s an unpredictable amateur. As an academic turned spook on the streets, his role in this New York drama is that of the proverbial loose cannon.

Our desperate hero car-jacks the movie’s romantic heroine Kathy (Faye Dunaway), in a scene that’s tense without being terrifying, or violent, and yet with Joe’s subsequent kidnapping and bullying, there are trust issues in focus here that reflect the paranoiac themes of a spy-fi storyline. Redford delivers a character study of a wannabe spy who is decidedly keen to come in from the cold, but finds he is trapped in a secret world of infinite greys, where strangers are suspects and even a postman can be a hired killer.

Alongside his sometime co-star Paul Newman, Redford was a top box-office draw of the late 1960s and 1970s. They were both established as stars in their own rights, but when cast in partnership roles, for Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969), and The Sting (1973), together they created a Hollywood legend far greater than just ‘buddy movies’. Both men reached some kind of peak in their careers during the following decade – Newman with The Verdict (1982), and Redford in The Natural (1984) – which saw both actors achieve a balance of magnificent charisma and/ or inimitable charm, with screen characterisations that remain matchless in popular cinematic quality and ambition. The Verdict is arguably the finest courtroom drama of all time, while The Natural is certainly the greatest movie ever made about sport.

In Three Days Of The Condor, Redford is a major star clearly on his way to producing his best work. His acting technique is well grounded in the sort of realism that Pacino would make his own style, but Redford is even smarter and his superstar savvy, much in evidence during this movie’s action sequences, never overwhelms his fabled appeal as perhaps the era’s most handsome romantic lead.

DVD extras include a 60-minute documentary TV episode: The Directors: Sydney Pollack.