I enjoy spy thrillers. Marathon Man, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Smiley’s People, Sneakers, Spy Game, etc, have all stuff I’ve enjoyed. I bring up Spy Game, because it was my first exposure to Redford in a spy film, which in turn leads me to this week’s review – Three Days of the Condor, which features Redford acting alongside Max Von Sydow in a spy thriller set in the US.
The plot follows Joseph Turner, code name “Condor,” an analyst for the CIA. When assassins kill everyone at his station except for him when he’s out getting lunch, he finds himself on the run, and trying to find out why he and his station were targeted. He seeks help from a Kathy Hale, a civilian he comes across while evading pursuit in a sporting goods store.
The film is, ultimately, a ’70s spy film in the context of “The Marathon Man” or the “Bourne Identity” novel – the main character gets betrayed, and spends the film on the run. The problem is, for a character who learned everything he knows about tradecraft from books, Turner’s character’s a heck of a lot better than most CIA agents. With Bourne, the main character’s a trained uber-assassin. With Marathon Man, the main character is basically stumbling through the movie and ends up getting caught in traps moderately regularly, which makes sense because he has no spy training. On the other hand, Turner does tricks that Bourne doesn’t even know. To give credit to the film, Turner survives his only fight scene through near luck.
As it is, the film’s plot isn’t too convoluted for its running time, the acting performances are all solid in this film (though nothing is really Academy Award worthy), and the problems I had above weren’t anything suspension of disbelief couldn’t handle. There were no elaborate set-piece car chases. No big over-the-top fight scenes. It’s just a grounded, but enjoyable, thriller. If you’re looking for a good suspense thriller, this is certainly an excellent place to turn.