DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

Three Days of the Condor

Add Comment 28 May 2009 by Joe Galm
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In some ways Sydney Pollack's 1975 suspense film is a bit of an enigma, being ridiculously dated at one moment and oddly relevant at the next. Taking place in New York City during an easily recognizable era (both in terms of cultural markings and filmic style), 3 Days of the Condor tells of CIA employee Joseph Turner (Robert Redford) and his search for truth. Not your ordinary CIA worker, Turner's job is a unique one. He's a reader and by "reader" I mean he reads everything ... literally. Working alongside a crew of colleagues, Turner's job is to read everything that's published in order to detect secret messages and codes within the text. It's like homeland security but before that term was coined. Of course, in a time before the digital age such a thing isn't really possible, though plausible enough for the sake of the story.

Not long after the picture opens, Turner's coworkers are slain as he is, "literally out to lunch." The story then unfolds at a fairly calculated pace, as Turner (now going by codename Condor) struggles to to reach sanctuary at the CIA base. Apparently Condor has come across some information he shouldn't have and, with the idea that intelligence is the greatest weapon of all, said information must be erased. The movie plays with this idea of knowledge being dangerous but generally by skirting subtlety and embracing the obvious. This holds true from all themes ranging from the value of world commodities to its take on Stockholm syndrome.

The movie works better as an espionage pseudo-thriller than it does as something of importance, owing thanks to the roaming lens of cinematographer Owen Roizman and the acting chops of Redford (Condor), Faye Dunaway (Condor's eventual accomplice), and Max von Sydow (Condor's would-be assassin). Though Redford demonstrates range and an understanding of his role, von Sydow's calm, stalking portrayal of a hitman is exemplary. In part, I'd chalk this up to his role (despite not being in his native tongue) not being nearly as complex as many of his prior performances. Having worked closely with Swedish master Ingmar Bergman, von Sydow already had been forced to carry the weight of a picture on his ever-expressive face. Here he's soft spoken and introverted, clearly masking his emotion behind his stoic gaze. It's always the quiet ones you have to worry about.

As noted, DP Roizman's photography is also a strong point of the movie and this Blu-ray transfer from Paramount does a fair job in projecting his and Pollack's vision. The image features a heavy amount of grain, indicative of its era. Detail is on par with other BD releases from the 70's, though the picture does seem a bit light and a smidge soft. Skin tones seem natural enough though and I hypothesize that the slightly washed out look may have been intentional, thus marrying the film's universal aesthetic with its crime-laden themes. The markedly 70's color palette seems to want to pop a bit more, but looks to be muted for the sake of consistency. Overall, this is far from Paramount's best release but it's far from their worst as well. Though I personally wouldn't recommend purchasing the Blu-ray disc due to my own indifference towards the film itself, fans of the movie should be impressed with this new representation.

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