Classic Intel: The Parallax View - Online Review

'Like many great conspiracy Thrillers, The Parallax View's plot is at its strongest when you don't quite know what the conspiracy is, as told by the powerful tagline ('There is no conspiracy. Just twelve people dead.')'

As a big fan of All The President's Men, Alan J. Pakula's prior film, The Parallax View - which also concerns paranoia, conspiracy and journalists - provides a fascinating glimpse of a director's evolutionary period. Sparser, spikier and a whole lot less polished than his opus on the events leading up to Nixon's resignation, The Parallax View proves the theory that truth is often strange enough for fiction not to be required. This film is a whole lot less terrifying than it wants to be, thanks to its vaguely defined villains, The Parallax Corporation, when compared to All The President's Men's benevolent dictator: a man who was actually at one point leader of the free world.

Where this film is more successful is in the base thrills that Pakula cooks up, throwing lead Warren Beatty around with abandon, where his later film hardly has Hoffman and Redford stepping out from behind their desks. Beatty ends up in a bar fight, in the middle of a dam flooding, a The Dukes Of Hazzard-style police car chase, an exploding boat and a memorable finale, staged in a large conference venue. All of that comes after the standout opening, involving assassination and a fall from Seattle's Space Needle. The more Action-based thrills are bravura 1970s stuff, well executed and precisely timed.

Like many great conspiracy Thrillers, The Parallax View's plot is at its strongest when you don't quite know what the conspiracy is. The powerful tagline ('There is no conspiracy. Just twelve people dead.') belies a setup that sucks us in as Pakula sucks Beatty's character in to the same. Though you can almost see the gears moving - when a former girlfriend (Paula Prentiss) comes to Joe Frady (Beatty) with a paranoid story, guess whether he believes her or not, and then what happens to her - there's no doubt that that section of the film sees The Parallax View at its best.

The wider problems creep in later, as Pakula attempts the more in-depth details of David Giler and Lorenzo Semple Jr.'s script. Frady's eventual face-to-face meeting with The Parallax Corporation is infinitely less terrifying than the opening shot of the board who 'will take no questions' and its similarities to A Clockwork Orange (1971) and others from a similar time are a needless distraction. As the stunts mount too, the budget stalls. Watch for a moment involving a plane, where Pakula's camera casually pans away just before a moment of action he couldn't afford to realise takes place.

The convention centre finale pulls the film back to where it is strongest, delivering cracking visuals, sound and patient Action but by then some of The Parallax View has been undermined by errors Pakula would fix by the time he made All The President's Men, just a couple of years later.

The Parallax View was available on Netflix.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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