Three Days of the Condor (1975)
May 25, 2018 7:02 PM - Subscribe

A bookish CIA researcher finds all his co-workers dead, and must outwit those responsible until he figures out who he can really trust.

AV Club: Robert Redford may seem too handsome and charismatic to play an everyman, but he comes close in Three Days Of The Condor, the fourth of his seven films with director Sydney Pollack. Redford plays Joe Turner, a CIA nerd who combs through novels for codes and clues at a Manhattan office disguised as the American Literary Historical Society. When Joe steps out to pick up lunch, he returns to find the rest of his office murdered—a discovery Pollack scores with the relentless, grim rattling of a dot matrix printer.

It’s not the movie’s only piece of surprisingly unsettling sound design; there are also Christmas carols trilling in the background of multiple scenes. Throughout the movie, Pollack elevates workaday surroundings into settings of possible menace, mirroring the way that Joe arrives at work placid and leaves paranoid and jittery.

Roger Ebert: The film's director, Sydney Pollack, has worked with Redford three times before (they made the epic "Jeremiah Johnson" and the considerably less-than-epic "The Way We Were"). He does an interesting job of gradually revealing the net around his character. It's made up of business like types, the most chilling thing about them, indeed, is their bloodlessness as they discuss death and other "contingency plans."

One of them is a hired assassin, played with particular menace by Max von Sydow. One is the dispassionate bureaucrat (Cliff Robertson). And one (John Houseman) is a demented product of Cold War double-reverse strategy. The movie never pushes their various and labyrinthine conspiracies too far. We can believe that the CIA might behave in this way -- and that it possibly has. The ending, when it comes and when it's explained with such cruel logic by von Sydow, has the right ring. A very hollow one.

Trailer

Streaming on Starz

Filming locations

Move Over, Die Hard. Three Days of the Condor Is the Christmas Classic No One’s Watching

Sydney Pollack’s ‘Three Days of the Condor’ is one of the finest spy thrillers ever filmed
posted by MoonOrb (11 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've always thought the spy thriller part of this is excellent but the romance subplot never worked for me.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:32 PM on May 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


Nerd of the North: "I've always thought the spy thriller part of this is excellent but the romance subplot never worked for me."

I saw a showing of The Fugitive with a talk from the director afterward and he said that there was originally going to be a romance subplot with Julianne Moore but they dropped it during production because they didn't think it would work. When he said that I immediately thought of 3 Days of the Condor.
posted by octothorpe at 6:18 AM on May 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


Nerd of the North: "I've always thought the spy thriller part of this is excellent but the romance subplot never worked for me."

Yeah, it made me very uncomfortable.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:12 PM on May 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


"Fuck you! And fuck the Wall Street Journal!"
posted by kirkaracha at 1:19 PM on May 26, 2018


Just saw this for the first time the other week and found it fairly terrible, especially the romance-by-captivity subplot. And, if Redford isn’t deemed attractive, does any of this entire film’s plot work?
posted by iamkimiam at 1:26 AM on May 27, 2018


Oh you .... you poor dumb son of a bitch you’ve done more damage than you can imagine ...
posted by growabrain at 1:28 AM on May 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


The first time I watched this I had to stop it partway through and yell incoherent gibberish about Radiohead at my significant other.

That’s because, when Redford’s character discovers the murders and calls in for the first time, the telephone operator says:

“This is the Panic Room. Section 9-17 has been hit. Activate the following procedure.”

...which is the sample looping in the background of Fitter, Happier - a song I’ve heard approximately 1,000,000 times.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 2:55 PM on May 27, 2018


Metafilter: I had to stop partway through and yell incoherent gibberish about Radiohead at my significant other.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:09 PM on May 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


I saw this film when it came out in 1975, which means I was 8 years old, and I think too young for the film. The machine-gunning scene was very upsetting to me. I watched it again now and found it upsetting still.

My mother took me to it. She also took me to The Eagle Has Landed the next year, which also has a very upsetting machine gunning scene. I'm a little surprised we didn't see The Island in 1980, as the climax is one long, upsetting machine-gunning, and that seems to have been my mother's thing.
posted by maxsparber at 7:16 AM on May 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


This was adapted from James Grady's book Six Days of the Condor, which always suggested to me that Pollack didn't think much of the attention span of his audience. The film dashes from one plot-point to another, and the romance between Redford and Dunnaway doesn't really add much. That said, von Sydow's turn as an implaccable assassin is charming, amusing and probably the highlight of the film.
posted by ubiquity at 7:45 AM on May 29, 2018


This is one of those movies that every time I get reminded of - like now - I watch it again
posted by growabrain at 11:40 PM on June 2, 2018


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