Three Days of the Condor Review
The Original Winter Soldier.
Forty years before Captain America went on the run from a conspiracy within the Government, Robert Redford’s Condor did the very same thing, in the prescient story that would later be reimagined as Winter Soldier.When all of his work colleagues are wiped out by an unknown hit squad, CIA bookworm Joe Turner – codename “Condor” – goes into hiding, soon realising that it is almost impossible to find anybody whom he can trust, as betrayals from upper echelons reveal conspiracies within conspiracies, and seemingly no way out. With no field experience, and a highly trained assassin in hot pursuit, will Condor be able to stay alive and get to the truth?Several of acclaimed director Sydney Pollack’s features were conspiracy thrillers (including The Firm and Michael Clayton), and of his seven collaborations with the legendary Robert Redford, this is arguably the best, a highlight even in both of their long and impressive careers, and one of a number of 70s conspiracy-era greats, often partnered with Pakula’s duo, the Warren Beatty vehicle The Parallax View, and another Redford flick, All the President’s Men.
Pollack directs the hell out of this piece, cranking up tension in the most unlikely circumstances, and subverting expectations from your usual thriller (spy or otherwise) as his protagonist peels back layers of the onion in search of the truth. The script, based on James Grady's Six Days of a Condor, boasts some excellent dialogue and great quotes which even the director couldn't resist reusing in later features, providing electric back-and-forth between Redford's beleaguered protagonist and the conspirators who opens his eyes to the way his supposedly patriotic superiors truly think. If Winter Soldier shook up the Marvel Universe for audience-goers, imagine what impact this had on the actual US public back in post-Watergate America.
"What is with you people? You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?"
With every character perfectly cast, and even the smallest bit-part on-point before the camera, it’s really down the three or four main players to carry the piece; Dunaway is both electric and vulnerable as a seemingly innocent bystander caught up in this web, whilst Max Von Sydow provides his trademark suave menace as a master assassin trailing the Condor. It’s Redford’s baby though, ultimately, with his excellent spy work here rivalled only by the even more cunning machinations employed by him in the Tony Scott thriller Spy Game. A classic and a masterpiece, and still inspiring modern gems over four decades on. Unmissable.
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