Published Nov 09, 2012Though prescient in its own way, pivoting on a CIA conspiracy to take over Middle Eastern oil fields noting the likely resource shortages of in the future, Three Days of the Condor is more curious in a modern context for its morality than its politics. At the time of release—1975—the Cold War spy-thriller was cultural ubiquitous, even reaching the point of parody; although, the distinction here, while similarly standard in a countercultural subversive light, was that of CIA criticism and involvement rather than mere Soviet finger pointing.
In such, the serious, darker, even polemical, voice of Sydney Pollack's thriller changed the tone of the genre; making the story of an untrained CIA analyst thrown into a complex political conspiracy, more grave an intense than its predecessors were. The plot, wherein Joseph Turner (Robert Redford)—the Condor—winds up on the run from assassins after he discovers his entire office full of co-workers shot to death when coming back from lunch, holds up quite well in premise and execution. His distrust and paranoia melds well with his erratic decision-making and the overall thrilling element of the unknown, where any helpful person or stranger could be a killer in disguise.
But as sociologically interesting as Condor proves to be, working as a high quality symbol of political distain for its time, the moral decisions and handling of gender are shocking and almost amusing when considered from a modern context.
While on the run from Alsatian assassin, Joubert (Max von Sydow), Turner literally kidnaps a woman (Faye Dunaway) he sees at a ski shop and forces her to take him to her home. Tying her up and pushing her around, he acts bewildered when she doesn't necessarily below his story of humble victimization, even exasperatedly pointing out—when she complains—that he didn't rape her or anything.
Similarly, while trying to evade Joubert, Turner approaches a group of African-American youths and attempts to engage them in discussion and a walk to his car (for personal protection), using the likelihood of their helping him break into his car for five bucks as bait. His assumption speaks for itself, especially considering the times and the sanctimonious politics of the film.
Despite the narrow-minded, white male, ideology of the entire thing, the actual storyline and thriller elements hold up quite well, making for compelling, albeit occasionally offensive, viewing.
Three Days of the Condor screens as part of the Beyond Bond: The Other Secret Agents program at the TIFF Bell Lightbox at 9pm on Friday, November 9th, 2012. (Paramount)