Three Days of the Condor

Partly due to the tragic death recently of one of Hollywood’s old guard, Mr Sydney Pollack, and partly because it happened to be on Film Four the other night, I’ve recently finished watching the Pollack directed Three Days of the Condor (1976) starring Robert Redford.

Redford stars as bookish (well about as bookish as Robert Redford can get – we see him hold a book, but this is Robert Redford!) Joseph Turner, a.k.a. The Condor, a CIA operative working out of a nondescript apartment block in New York.

Turner’s section of the CIA are devoted to reading books, magazines and reports that are published around the globe, analysing them for anything that might pose a security threat to the USA.

Popping out of the office for lunch one afternoon, Turner returns to find his friends and colleagues all dead, murdered by Max von Sydow and his cronies. From here Turner goes on the run, at first trusting his bosses after phoning them for help, but soon realising that he’s now the prime suspect in the murder and he’s got nowhere to hide.

From the off this is a cracking thriller, New York looking as imposing and unfriendly to Turner as his own company turns out to be. Shots of the Twin Towers loom, eerily foreshadowing in the mind of any present day viewer the legacy that real-world US policy, touched upon here, would have.

Redford is a fine lead, effortlessly showing the confusion and mistrust of a man on the run. Faye Dunaway is also on great form as her character is drawn into the murky world of US intelligence.

Pollack’s direction is always alert for the interesting camera angle, his lens casting an eager eye over each new location. In fact a quick check of IMDB tells me that excluding the action during the opening credits, this film has approximately 1172 shots in 1 hour 53 minutes and 8 seconds, or an average shot duration of about 5.8 seconds – today Pollack might have used CCTV cameras to get the same effect.

I’ve been thinking about Condor for a few days now, it’s no-nonsense style and fast pace really having made an impression. I’m going to try and track down some more Pollack films over the next few months and see what else I’ve been missing.

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