A clever translator working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency inadvertently uncovers an unauthorized plot by his agency to invade the Middle East. [ Three Days of the Condor credits: Dir: Sydney Pollack/ Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson/ 118 min/ Thriller/ Working for Government, Corrupt Government]
Although Three Days of the Condor only dramatizes one of the more modest dangers of maintaining a semi-secret police, it was nonetheless a sensation at the time of its release, when, thanks to Watergate, the American people were finally beginning to wake up to government corruption.
In this story, a CIA researcher returns to his office only to find everyone in it killed. Why they were killed and who did it, he doesn’t know. When he tries to meet other CIA agents to find out what’s happening, they try to kill him too. For the rest of the film he’s on the run, trying to survive and to ferret out the truth. It’s a cloak and dagger tale, full of ice cold assassins and no one you can really trust, that presaged a future of increasingly violent and secretive behavior by government agencies.
What makes this story particularly delicious is that the people involved in all the espionage and killing are well intentioned; they are obsessed with controlling Middle East oil fields and other world resources at any cost because they cannot imagine the U.S. surviving without them, a classic central planning mentality that underestimates the resilience of the market. The reason they are trying to kill this particular researcher is that he had inadvertently begun to stumble onto their secret plans.
This whodunit/spy/chase movie remains popular to this day. Three Days of the Condor is a well-paced film, and the acting is generally good. Faye Dunaway gives an excellent performance as Redford’s captive sidekick. However, it is in some ways dated, particularly with regard to technology, which plays a large role and which looks less impressive now.