Three Days of the Condor (US - BD)
Gabe gets his first glance at Sydney Pollack's political thriller on Blu-ray disc
Joe Turner (Robert Redford) works for the CIA in an entirely intellectual capacity. He’s definitely not a field agent. He’s paid to read and assess books, newspapers, and magazines from around the world, and discover hidden meanings and new ideas. One day, after filing a report, Turner (codename Condor) takes the back exit to go to lunch. While he’s out a group of heavily armed men, led by an Alsatian assassin (Max von Sydow) shoot up the place, and kill all of Turner’s co-workers. Turner returns to the chaos, and is quickly on the lamb. After surviving a second attack by what appears to be his own bosses, Turner kidnaps Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway), and uses her as a pawn in his further plans.
Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. There were three key words on this Blu-ray – Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, and Sydney Pollack. That’s really all I knew about The Three Days of Condor beyond some vague memories of reading books that compared it to other ‘70s paranoia classics like The Parallax View. My simple ‘70s thriller expectations were met within the first twenty minutes. Everything after that was just gravy. The gravy’s a bit wavy, but it’s still gravy.
Three Days of Condor fits very well into the time and genre. It’s shot very naturally, but features enough zippy editing to ensure the audience knows they’re watching a movie. The story isn’t as twisty as similar era work, and the final act revelations don’t resonate as strongly as some of the better political shockers, but the characters are fully formed thanks to the actors and Pollack’s strong abilities with actors. There are some largely predictable elements to the plot (the Stockholm Syndrome love affair is given away on the poster art), and some pale imitations of William Friedkin’s more successful hand-held New York city work, but by and large I’m just nitpicking, and possibly unfairly comparing the film to some of history’s most perfect motion pictures. The technology is a bit of a laugh, but in a good way, including old-fashion phone tracing and a micro-fiche based pre-curser to Google maps.
The Three Days of Condor looks pretty grand for a film going on more than thirty-five years, but I have seen better performance out of older films. As is often the case with vintage features the big hi-def advantage is the brightness and intensity of the colours. These particular colours are pretty intense, but not entirely cleanly separated, and there are a few instances of blooming. Based on expectations set by similar features I’m surprised at the relative cleanliness of this presentation. The clarity and cleanliness is inconsistent, and there is plenty of grain to go around, but overall I am impressed. Details are just as inconsistent, but sometimes pretty impressive, especially in close-up. Extreme close-ups on black and white text are quite clean and readable, another definitive advantage Blu-ray has over DVD. On DVD such text is almost always surrounded by blocking.
Despite its age The Three Days of Condor features some exquisitely layered sound design. The scene towards the beginning of the film where Sydow’s hitmen take out all Redford’s friends is a minor masterpiece of buzzing computers and puffing, silenced automatic guns. The sound ebbs and flows quite naturally throughout the scene, based on the camera’s placement, which is quite dynamic for the era. Scenes like this are naturally represented on the track, but are mostly centred, which is fine considering the mixes likely monaural roots. There are a few directional effects, like a landing helicopter, and the stereo and surround effects teem with some minor street noise, but mostly effects and dialogue are effectively centred. These elements could do with a warmth and bass boost (especially impacting effects like gunshots), but are fine considering age. The ridiculous score is pretty regularly present in the stereo speakers, and makes up for some of the lacking bass.
Instead of the double feature game I’m going to play the prequel game with this film. Let’s pretend that Three Days of Condor is the prequel to Redford’s turn in Sneakers, Dunaway’s in The Eyes of Laura Mars, and Robertson’s in Spider-Man. It’s also a pretty obvious frontrunner to director Sydney Pollack’s adaptation of The Firm, though generally more interesting. I’m not sure the A/V quality of this Blu-ray release is quite worth a re-purchase for anyone without a television over forty-two inches, but first time viewers should be happy. Bummer on the extras though.
*Note: The images on his page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 19th May 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Easter Egg: No
Director: Sydney Pollack
Cast: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max Von Sydow
Genre: Action and Thriller
Length: 117 minutes
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