Masters Of Cinema #128 - Three Days Of The Condor - Blu-ray Review

'A complex and intriguing web of double-dealing and paranoia worthy of a John le Carré novel'.

Considering how much of Three Days Of The Condor could either be very easily updated or simply transferred to the present day, it's perhaps surprising that director Sydney Pollack's espionage thriller hasn't already been subjected to a 21st Century remake. Plans for a television series surfaced around a year ago, but little more has been heard since then. It's almost certainly a case of no news is good news, however: when the original still resonates as strongly as it does over forty years after it was first released, a contemporary overhaul would feel largely redundant.

That said, a remake might offer the chance to rectify the handful of minor flaws in Pollack's film. Despite a pair of sterling performances from Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway, the hurried Stockholm-Syndrome-fuelled romantic subplot that develops between Joe (Redford) and Kathy (Dunaway) feels at best dubious, at worst really quite uncomfortable to witness. Pollack is fortunate to have two performers of considerable talent that can make the relationship work well enough to ensure it never becomes Condor's undoing. 

The main plot, set in motion by a simple but superbly effective opening act, is much stronger. What follows is a complex and intriguing web of double-dealing and paranoia worthy of a John le CarrĂ© novel. The screenplay from Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfiel keeps things gripping whilst ensuring it's never quite clear who is on which side, or indeed which side can be trusted, if any. Matters become a little too murky for a stretch in the final act, but by the end enough loose ends are tied up to satisfy whilst also leaving a few questions purposefully and poignantly unanswered. 

Whilst the whole is satisfying, the individual elements that go into Condor are perhaps even more so. The arc followed by Joe from carefree and quirky to cynical and insecure is superb, with Redford's turn making the journey entirely believable (even if the same can't quite be said for the initially bookish Joe's occasional transformation into a surprisingly adroit man of action). Most successful outside of Redford's protagonist is Max Von Sydow's pragmatic contract killer Joubert, a figure who becomes more fascinating with each successive minute Von Sydow is on screen. 

Whilst Pollack's film may have been underscored by the Watergate Scandal unfolding in the years preceding its release, the thrust of the political elements contained within it have perhaps never felt more relevant than now. I challenge anyone watching today not to ruminate on whether the events depicted, and the motivations of the people behind them, would be more or less likely to occur now than when the film was released. It's a factor which has allowed the food for thought provided by Three Days Of The Condor to stay fresh where that of some other films of the era becomes ever more stale. 

Founded in 2004, The Masters of Cinema Series is an independent, carefully curated, UK-based Blu-ray and DVD label, now consisting of over 150 films. Films are presented in their original aspect ratio (OAR), in meticulous transfers created from recent restorations and / or the most pristine film elements available.

Three Days Of The Condor is released in the UK on Monday 11th April 2016

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment