Recently I watched the 2012 Robert Redford movie, The Company You Keep. It was excellent with a cast that was so rich that even the one scene roles were played by actors such as Sam Elliot and Richard Jenkins. I was immediately reminded of one of my favourite Redford movies, Three Days of the Condor (1975) with its mixture of a chase anchored by beautiful quiet moments.
The movie is based on the 1974 novel, Six Days of the Condor by James Grady, and it is very much of its time with the Cold War backdrop, the lack of trust in the bureaucracy and/or the American government and an element of realism and bleakness that was prevalent in 1970s US cinema. It was filmed on location in New York City giving it immediacy and authenticity. Styles and buildings may have changed over the years, but New York City remains the same. Fast paced, noisy and crowded. It becomes a great supporting character in the film.
Redford plays Joe Turner, a CIA analyst, who finds himself out on his own when he is the only survivor an attack on his office and the mechanicians of his CIA superiors make it dangerous for him to come in from the cold. He kidnaps a stranger, Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway) and coerces her into providing him with a safe place to stay while he figures out what to do next. These are straightforward plot points for the film, but what makes it a classic is the tension that is built because of the situation but also the very realistic reactions of Joe, who finds himself out of his depth. What will make or break the film for you is if you find the relationship between Joe and Kathy plausible or not. This is the element of the story that could have gone awry, however, Sydney Pollack finds an honesty between the two characters and brings out a strong connection between them based on the great chemistry of Redford and Dunaway. Both Redford and Dunaway are great in this film and in the hands of a lesser actress Kathy would have been an aside in the film. Sydney Pollack and Robert Redford worked together on six movies through the 1970s and 1980s andThree Days of the Condor was their third movie together. It is not a partnership between actor and director that is much heralded as Pollack was not seen as an auteur like Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola, but I think that is a disservice. He is a very good director that made a combination of comedies, thrillers and dramas throughout his career. Possibly his commercial success detracted his critics from recognising how good he was. We are definitely missing the types of movies he made today. There is not much scope for the medium sized budget movie aimed at adults these days.
There are many other political thrillers of this time such as The Conversation, All The President's Men (another Redford and Pollack pairing) and The Parallax View, however Three Days of the Condor brings an element of sex that is lacking in the others. That spark is why the film is referenced in a conversation between escaped thief Jack Foley (George Clooney) and FBI agent Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) in the boot of a car in Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight (1998), another great movie. I recommend watching Three Days of the Condor it holds up and it is a much better than many thrillers that I have seen in the last five years.