Being left in the dark is a key way of keeping an audience engaged with a film. If the viewer is guessing and asking questions, there’s also a good chance they’re going along for the ride. Just as long as they care about what’s going on also. Therein lies the problem with Sydney Pollack’s 3 Days of the Condor. It’s got the mystery aspect down beautifully, but because I wasn’t given a chance to get behind the characters and get to know them, I had a hard time getting into the film itself.
Robert Redford plays Joe Turner, a paper-pushing CIA agent who doesn’t come across as a threat to anyone. He’s established as a quiet mouse who spends his days in books and writing papers. So when his office is shot up, it starts a mysterious chain of events that puts Turner on the run and his friends in danger.
While on the run, Turner seeks safety by taking Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway) hostage. It makes for an interesting dynamic, but not in a good way. Hale is more of a prop than a necessity for the story. In the chaos of things, it was luck that brought the pair together. That’s in Turner’s own words. I want more than luck to drive a story. And if a girl’s going to get it on with the guy who took her hostage less than 24 hours prior, there better be a whole lot more than luck and fate to make me buy into it.
The reason for the slaughter is largely unclear, as are the people behind it. We learn names and who they’re with but the all-important motivation is left out as long as possible. Had Turner been a little more fleshed out, this would have made for an interesting dynamic in that you’d be able to go on the adventure alongside the green CIA agent. Instead, it makes for a double dose of sitting in darkness. I like asking questions and guessing but there needs to be a balance.
3 Days of the Condor is like a low-tech version of The Bourne Identity or TV’s 24. Fast sports cars and fancy gadgets are limited to a basic wiretap, hand guns and a rifle. It’s a major change of pace from today’s thrillers where style often comes to the forefront. Is rapid editing and a blaring soundtrack a smokescreen for a shallow story in these new films? Perhaps. But it also gives them that something extra to make the viewer want to get involved in the film. 3 Days of the Condor doesn’t have modern tricks to hide behind and maybe that works against it. The story takes place in the open and the focus is therefore on the story and not how it’s constructed. Unfortunately, the story is weak.
Without giving anything away, it is more than a little frightening as to the reasons why things went down the way they did in the film. It brings the timelessness as to the issues the world continues to face and struggle with. It also makes me wonder when the remake is going to show up.
Three Days of the Condor Blu-ray Review
Other than the very occasional fleck her and small scratch there, the 1080p high definition picture on the 3 Days of the Condor Blu-ray release looks sharp. Audio is in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and French mono. Subtitles are available in both languages as well as Spanish. Unfortunately, the only added feature is the film’s theatrical trailer presented in HD.
Three Days of the Condor Gallery