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3.0 out of 5 stars Candor about "Condor", June 4 2004
This review is from: Three Days of the Condor (DVD)
Released the year after Watergate, this was among the first of the "paranoid thriller" films involving conspiracies, rogue CIA agents, and whatnot. While it probably seemed groundbreaking and fresh in 1975, three decades of similarly plotted movies have dulled Condor's edge.
Robert Redford plays an agent, code name "Condor," who works in a scholarly-appearing CIA front organization in New York that analyzes world literature for significant patterns (whose significance to the spook agency isn't spelled out very convincingly). While he goes to the deli to pick up lunch for his crew, a team of assassins gains entry to the office and wipes out all of his colleagues there, as well as another who is at home. Redford, realizing he was supposed to be among the victims, goes on the run and plays cat-and-mouse with various CIA officers, any of whom could be behind the killings.
He chooses at random a woman photographer (Faye Dunaway) as his unwilling accomplice while hiding and trying to penetrate the evil cabal within the "Company." In one of the screen's unlikeliest romances, Dunaway finds her fear and distrust of Redford's character yielding to belief in his story and then a dangerous liaison with him.
The director, Sydney Pollack, has often blended the elements of commercial cinema with intelligence and taste (e.g., Out of Africa). This is another such attempt, but not one of his better efforts. The genre has worn thin, as noted earlier, and the script staggers from cliche to cliche. I won't be giving away anything important if I tell you that the denouement is, yes, "It's all about ... oil!"
I am usually unable to warm to Redford, and this was no exception. There is no "there" there, as Gertrude Stein said about Oakland. He strikes poses and lets his golden hair do his acting for him. There is also a featured (but minor) role for John Houseman as a sour, cold-eyed case officer. He lays it on thick.
Still, several of the performances give Condor what distinction it has. Dunaway is better than I would have expected, quite credible and sometimes touching as a lonely introvert. Cliff Robertson, one of the underestimated actors of the '60s and early '70s (what ever happened to him?), is strong as the CIA officer assigned to "bring in" Condor. Best of all is the great Max von Sydow, who starred in many of Ingmar Bergman's films, playing a freelance assassin. Watch how a master actor makes a meal out of a feebly written part.
Several scenes were shot outside and inside the World Trade Center, which was then brand new. They are chilling in a way the filmmakers could not have conceived.
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