Three Days of the Condor

I know Halloween comes only once a year, but let’s talk about spooks. The spy kind. CIA variety. A lot of very prescient and interesting scenarios unfold in this 1975 Robert Redford thriller.

In the footsteps of John LeCarré and George Smiley, the Condor story is a tale within a tale. Just like life, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, what with all the direct but unexpected twists and turns. Add to that, the action takes place in that limbo season of “not quite winter… November.”

Of course, after the initial shock of the inciting event, Redford gets very savvy very quickly and stays one step ahead of the looming threat. (We even get a clue about the genesis of the term “cleaning crew” and who those “janitors” might be.) But finding someone our hero can trust is tricky. In a line near the end of the film, Condor says to his handler, “You guys think not getting caught in a lie is the same as telling the truth.” All these years after the film’s debut, that sounds way too close to real life.

Given that Condor was made in 1975 — just two years after the Saudi oil embargo, there are fascinating location settings and props to appreciate, especially since the film was shot in New York City and Washington, D.C. The Guggenheim Museum provides a backdrop, as do the Twin Towers, since that’s the site of the CIA’s New York headquarters. Eastern was still an independent airline, and Washington National Airport hadn’t been renamed for President Reagan. Cell phones didn’t exist. Yup. You’ll see lots of rotary-dial telephones and phone booths on street corners instead. Television sets with mechanical dials for changing the total of 13 channels. Wiretaps done by phone company blue dial-based handset, alligator clips, and junction boxes in a routing station wire room.

My, how times have changed. Or have they? Maybe, the only difference is the size, portability, and ubiquity of the technology.

Take a look at 2007’s Michael Clayton….

Cast: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max Von Sydow,
John Houseman, Tina Chen
Director: Sydney Pollack
Theatrical release: 1975; available on DVD

Copyright ©2014 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos