Three Days of the Condor


Three Days of the Condor Review

In Sydney Pollack's strange spy thriller Three Days of the Condor, Robert Redford plays a playful and somewhat geeky analyst for the C.I.A. He spends his days reading books, journals, and any manner of written correspondence that is published or publicly available, searching for codes, keywords, and country names to cross-reference with Langley. He has a code name, Condor, which he has no particular use for until the day he returns from a lunch run to find his entire department murdered. Suddenly, he is on the lam, indulging in ramshackle espionage plots and rubbing elbows with foreign assassins. He's not a spy but he plays one pretty well.

Unlike the Condor, the viewer may only pick up the salient points. There's a smattering of names for several chiefs and directors: Wicks, Wabash, Atwood, Higgins, etc. Even the switchboard operator is given the title "The Major." There's a woman, Catherine Hale (Faye Dunaway), whom the Condor takes hostage and quickly embarks on a semi-romantic partnership with. When he's not busy connecting the dots, the Condor is being hunted by a tall gun-for-hire with a foreign accent given the codename Joubert (the indefatigable Max Von Sydow) and another assassin named simply The Mailman. It doesn't seem to matter much but, for what it's worth, it all seems to have something to do with a possible war in the Middle East and oil.

As a thriller, Three Days only works in spurts but it gains in momentum as it goes, giving the eerie calm of its two concluding scenes a lingering paranoia. There are some very good scenes, even riveting ones, where Pollack builds magnificent tension out of space and silence in Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfiel's lively script. One great moment: Condor and Joubert meeting in an elevator that stops at every floor. There's also that completely unexpected moment when Catherine refers to herself as a "spyfucker."

In form, Pollack has parked himself somewhere between Louise Malle and late-period Hitchcock. The composer Dave Grusin (The Friends of Eddie Coyle, The Front) adds a lot of bopping horns and scattered percussion to the score, giving it a jazzy stride. But the film doesn't feel jazzy: There's a calculated feeling to Pollack and cinematographer Owen Roizman's lensing that feels at odds with the film's noise. Whereas the story and performances are often nimble and rousing, the filmmaking feels careful, even cautious.

Of course, this "wronged hero" role is the sort of thing Redford could knock out during an afternoon nap, but then there's Dunaway, playing notes of perversion, guilt and curiosity that would go unnoticed in lesser hands. There's Von Sydow reconstructing the idea of the steely government assassin into something with ethics and logic, twisted as they may be. He's deeply human, just not the human we know. Even John Houseman shows up as an aging juggernaut of the company.

Redford's interactions with the assassins and agencies are staged nicely and for complete nonsense, it's really quite entertaining. What grounds the film and provides it with its own rhythm is Condor's relationship with Catherine, with all the nervous moments and impossible promises that come with it. Catherine has an estranged lover waiting for her in Vermont and she wants things to work out with him, even if he sounds like a heavy sentimentalist. But what can she do: There's a spy who needs lovin' in her apartment.

Aka 3 Days of the Condor.

Three Days of the Condor

Facts and Figures

Run time: 117 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 24th September 1975

Box Office Worldwide: $27.5M

Distributed by: Paramount Home Video

Production compaines: Dino De Laurentiis Company, Paramount Pictures, Tom Ward Enterprises, Wildwood Enterprises

Reviews 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Fresh: 32 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew


Producer: Stanley Schneider

Starring: as Joseph Turner, as Kathy Hale, as J. Higgins, as G. Joubert, as Mr. Wabash, Addison Powell as Leonard Atwood, as Sam Barber, as Janice Chon

Also starring: