Comfortable and Furious

Three Days of the Condor


1 hour 57 minutes, R for violence

Fair Value of Three Days of the Condor: $6.00. This Sydney Pollack classic is a twisty and cynical spy film, one that prefigures much of the Jason Bourne films in the theme of ‘disavowed spy forced to live off his wits’. Crackling.

Golden Age Cinema and the End of American Innocence: One of the by-blows of Watergate was the Church Committee, which peeled back the curtain on the atrocities and conspiracies of the CIA. In that climate, there came a new batch of spy thrillers that no longer posited the MI-6 and CIA as square-jawed upholders of order, but instead as a bottomless labyrinth of conspiracies, nestled inside on another like Matroshka dolls.

Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Plot Summary: A CIA analyst (Robert Redford) returns from his lunch break to find everybody at his office murdered, and he is forced to go on the run in New York City, not knowing who he can trust.

How Suspenseful is it? Three Days starts strong, as ‘Condor’ shakes his assassins, then slows down, but then picks up in the later acts as the sides and conspiracies shift.

Beware the unremarkable men. Max von Sydow steals the show as the lead assassin, a European professional with ice water for blood and an effortless calm that makes him truly chilling. Part of why this movie works so well is because Von Sydow and Redford both establish competence and resourcefulness. It’s a cat and mouse game where the target shifts back and forth.

Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, and Cliff Robertson in Three Days of the Condor (1975)

Cowboys and Angletons: What really innovates in Three Days of the Condor is the sheer callousness displayed by the CIA- not only towards the public, but to their own agents. It’s not just suggesting that the CIA is playing ruthless games to gain power for big business, but that it’s perfectly willing to kill it’s own agents and even directors to prevent exposure or embarrassment.

Is this film worth re-watching? I’d describe Three Days of the Condor as an ever-green selection for any cold war thriller marathon, alongside films like The Long Good Friday and series like The Sandbaggers.



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