After 1974 and Watergate different movies were made. People were disappointed with the government and its institutions and if President was capable of lying, what did the Intelligence agencies do? “Three days of the Condor” was made in that atmosphere and (together with “Parallax View”) we can feel anger and will of change so noticeable in the mid-seventies. Vietnam War was coming to a close, evidence of Chile coup was out-there and questions about morality and integrity of America and its Intelligence agencies were risen. Americans took the politics into their own hands, and genius directors as Sydney Pollack made movies about crusaders fighting corruption and betrayal of the principles of democracy. “Three days of the Condor” fit that picture perfectly. Robert Redford, Max Von Sydow and Faye Dunaway made the magic trio in the movie, trio of outcasts from the corrupted system that functions within it, but not without pointing out all its weaknesses.
Joseph Turner (Robert Redford) is a bookish analyzer for American History and Literature Society, which is clearly CIA front for intelligence work. His task is analyzing the literature written all around the world and find connections with CIA operations, find potential leaks and gather new ideas. When he files report about his findings, all his colleagues are in danger. He must find connections of his report with the actions of the Company and when plots within plots start to unravel nobody will be safe. He will get unlikely help in Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway) who hasn’t volunteered for the job, she was a draftee, and two of them will develop dynamic relationship in which the trust will not always be the most important part.
Third part of the triangle is mysterious Joubert (von Sydow), contract killer for the company, and we are not sure where his allegiances lie. He is portrayed as blond Nazi-like mustache character, with a hat and a silenced gun, professional in his job, not somebody you would like to meet. He is methodical, precise and knows more about the job than Turner. His knowledge is practical, while Turner’s “knowledge” comes from books and his natural instinct for survival. Relationships between those three characters are fueling the movie.
“Three days of the Condor” is classic spy-thriller in which we have the individual fighting the system, and system unwilling to change priorities. We don’t know the motives of the people included, we don’t know why everything is happening but Turner lives his action-packed three days to the fullest extent. His conspiracy could be ours. Problem is, betrayal by the Agency is very sensitive, invades privacy of everybody concerned. That is a problem that persists. What is exactly allowed in defense of the democracy? If by defending democracy you’re practicing tyranny are you still true to your ideals. Objects at the time being were that “Three days of a Condor” is commercializing the nation’s trauma. It can be seen from that perspective but even if it is so, than nothing was lost by commercialization. Sydney Pollack directed the movie in an artistic way, some scenes are school of wonderful visual editing and not all in “Three days of theCondor” is packed with action, spies and thriller. Movie is easy to watch, pulls in very quickly and some modern thriller could learn from its pace, methodic direction and emotionally great acting.
Message in the end is a mark of storyteller, last scene of the movie is memorable. While orchestra is singing about Satan’s way and tricks of deception and betrayal question stays in the air. Robert Redford answers it, and that question is a question that we should ask ourselves today. Freedom of the press is the base of the American ideals, and if that’s compromised then everything that we’ve seen in the movie is pointless. That is horror for Pollack and that is also where the commercialization ends. In “Three days of the Condor” resurrection of ideals was (it seems) complete, conspiracies were doomed to fail like in all old-fashion thrillers. But the bigger picture wasn’t complete. Redford was still in the balance. Symbolism is still there. 40 years later the final question of the movie is still in the air. Still unanswered. What would your answer be?
Depending on it, are we optimistic or pessimistic about our own point of view, our own perspective? Are we just puppets on a string of some invisible puppet-master?