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When Paranoia Makes Sense: Why Three Days of Condor is Still Relevant

The paranoia and deceit infused throughout the Pollack’s movie? It’s certainly still prevalent today

Using the well-traversed machination of an ordinary guy wrapped up in extraordinary circumstances – and imbuing it with that post-Watergate malaise and creeping paranoia – Three Days of the Condor belongs with the similarly-styled Warren Beatty-headliner The Parallax View as a classic of the subgenre. Of course, you’ll need to initially swallow leading man Redford as a nebbish low level CIA analyst, but this is the movies after all. Employed to decipher any possible hidden messages in printed material churned out by sources from around world, Redford’s Joe Turner goes on the run when his whole team are butchered at the office.

Forced to essentially kidnap an unwitting civilian (Faye Dunaway) and hide out in her apartment while a hitman tracks him down, thus begins a treacherous and unpredictable quest for the protagonist as he attempts to wade through the murky inner politics of the intelligence service that has betrayed him. The paranoia and deceit infused throughout the film is certainly still prevalent today, particularly given the current fragile political climate around the world and the underhanded nature of American imperialism. Turner’s discovery that the highly sensitive coding he unearthed (and which led to his office bloodbath) is a covert and illegal operation to seize Middle Eastern oil fields and prevent a State-side fuel shortage, is uncomfortably close to a modern geopolitical landscape.

Turner is almost a 70s cinematic equivalent of Edward Snowden, albeit an unintentional whistle-blower and someone is ill-equipped in dealing with having a target on his head. Unlike the Bourne series, this is also an espionage thriller which doesn’t move at breakneck speed or involve the central figure performing death-dying leaps around rooftops and engaging in high-octane car chases. This is a much more grounded venture, helping to add credibility to the situation, both through Redford’s easy charisma and Sydney Pollack’s understated direction.

That restraint maintained throughout Three Days of the Condor is largely why such a premise – which ordinarily could be dismissed as Hollywood-fabricated hokum – is still frighteningly feasible in a modern context. The tension and intrigue in the film is derived from the lack of melodrama, and as such, the film is both a testament to the kind of thoughtful, character-led films of that era in US cinema, and a stark reminder that being a hard-working and loyal patriot to your country can have adverse, even altogether deadlier, repercussions.

  • «I just read books!»: watch the original trailer of the movie:

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