The 1970s offered up some wonderful suspense-filled paranoia thrillers. One of the best films in the cycle was Sydney Pollack’s Three Days Of The Condor. Pollack stacks his film with a great cast, with his go-to leading man Robert Redford in the lead and Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson and Max Von Sydow offering support. This 1975 film still holds up forty years on and it’s likely just as relevant today as it was when it first hit screens in a decade filled with the Vietnam War and Watergate.
Redford plays Joe Turner, a lowly CIA analyst (codename: Condor) forced to go on the run when he accidentally stumbles across a political conspiracy. Turner works for the ‘American Literary Historical Society’, a deep cover section CIA agency that looks for hidden codes within printed literature. He’s a bookworm on the lowest link of the spy chain and he’s totally out of his depth when he must outwit the assassins who are out to kill him.
Three Days Of The Condor plays to Robert Redford’s strengths as a movie star. Redford is always at this best when he’s playing a charismatic outsider and his turn here gives him plenty to chew on. This set a lot of the ground work for his other espionage-fused roles in Sneakers, Spy Game, The Company You Keep and even Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Sydney Pollack remains as one of Hollywood’s great directors and he was always at his best in the thriller genre. He keeps the tension tight and makes the best of Lorenzo Semple Jr and David Rayfiel’s script. The wintry New York streets are the perfect setting for this tale and the grit and cold is brought to life by Oen Roizman’s superb cinematography. Dave Grusin’s score might be a touch dated, but it’s the perfect accompaniment to this very ‘70s thriller.
Hollywood doesn’t make this type of classy thriller anymore. Few directors today have the skill or class of Sydney Pollack and so few stars can hold the screen quite like Robert Redford. There’s nothing flashing here – just excellent storytelling.
This beautiful blu-ray transfer of Three Days Of The Condor comes with a Sydney Pollack episode of The Directors. The doc offers an overview of Pollack’s impressive career. You also get an informative interview with film historian Sheldon Hall, a trailer and a 32 page booklet. This is wonderful stuff.