Home Page > Movies Index > Mystery | Thriller > Movie Review

Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

An Endangered Species

Three Days of the Condor (1975) on IMDb

Plot Overview

It's another dreary day at the office. One employee is out sick and another, Joe Turner (Robert Redford), has arrived late on his motor­bike. You might find it hard to get excited, too, if all you did all day was read books at the American Literary Historical Society (A.L.H.S.) Mostly, they just have them scanned into a computer (“What do you need to feed in late again?”) Dr. Ferdinand Lappe (Don McHenry) looking all intellectual tells Joe there's “nothing in response to your report.” Ah, some­body checks up on their work. Joe is worried because, “a mystery that didn't sell has been trans­lated into an odd assortment of languages.” We could care less. It's another dreary day at the office.

It's raining outside this brownstone. Joe waves off some black dudes who'd been showing an interest in his chained bike. There's a security camera on the door and a buzzer to open it. There's even a bored security guard in the foyer. The receptionist keeps a .45 pistol in her drawer. She fears some­one may try to rape her, but one look at her tells us she has little to fear. But it's New York City; you can't be too careful. Oh, and there's a car parked across the street with a man in it checking off the arrivals. Some kind of bureaucratic over­kill, we suppose. The only thing that puts us on edge is the saturated bass tones in the back­ground jazz. It triggers some primal response like animals peace­fully grazing on the savanna will be alerted to (big) predators by sound.

As the machine scans in, “He went back below decks to see what else he could find,” Joe takes an unauthorized exit (“saves him a block”) to hit the neighbor­hood deli for take­out for the office lunches. He returns to some good news and some bad news. The good news is it has stopped raining. The bad news is the people there won't be needing their lunches anymore. The machine scans in, “After the boat had left, the ripples spread over the smooth surface of the pond.” The carnage at work affects all of Joe's familiar connections until he is forced to abduct a stranger Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway) for assistance. And while his former complaint was he couldn't tell any­body what he did, now that he finally tells this some­one, she finds it hard to believe he's a CIA information reader (“We read every­thing that's published in the world.”) She's a photog­rapher who finds it difficult to share self-revealing photos, so the shoe is now on the other foot. Is the CIA out to hatch some nefarious plot, or is it just gathering intelligence to play at? Why, that's like asking whether those blacks out­side were about to lift that bike, or were they just innocently curious about it? What do you think?


“Three Days of the Condor” was released on 24 September 1975 (USA.) Kathy's photo­graphs were: “Not quite winter. They look like November.” “Three Days” takes place in early December judging by the familiar Xmas carols heard faintly in the background from time to time. In fact one of them even­tually comes to the fore­ground: Tidings of Comfort and Joy … Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day / To save us all from Satan's power / When we were gone astray. Although this movie does not emulate the Nativity per se, it does remind us of it.

Historian Paul Johnson has written of: “The pluto­cratic tyranny of Herod the Great … In what we now call Palestine, … at the time of Jesus's birth” (13). There's a curious similarity in spelling between this HEROD and in the movie LEonaRd AtwoOD the (“Who are you?”) Deputy Director of Operations Mideast (Addison Powell). Johnson describes a “powerful fortress … the massive Antonia (named after Mark Antony) in Jerusalem, over­looking the temple and [Herod's] own enormous palace” (14). The meeting place to pick up Joe, aka Condor, was in an alley behind the Ansonia Hotel. Again, similarity in spelling.

The familiar story is that, “Mary … submitted to her destiny in memorable words reflecting a proud humility (Luke 1:38) ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’” (Johnson 17). In the movie Kathy's response to Joe's request for help is a proud but humble, “Have I ever denied you anything?”

Mary's Magnificat included words eminently apropos to this movie: (Luke 1:51-52) “He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.”

In the Gospel Joseph went along with Mary's sudden condition, (Matt. 1:19) “Joseph her husband, being a just man.” And to Joe's question about her boy­friend's response to her sudden change of plan, “What will he do?”, Kathy responded, “Understand, probably.”

Kathy had the same dilemma about bonding with the “spy” as did Mary with her new baby. Said Kathy, “I don't think I want to know you very well. I don't think you're going to live much longer.” Jesus was born to die for our sins.

The birth of Jesus was preceded by a choir of heavenly angels. In this movie the readers note a Chinese ideogram tien meaning heaven.

The clincher is the slaughter of the innocents, that all the employees at A.L.H.S. were wiped out on account of the report by Condor. “Herod's terror that the infant king would steal his king­dom led to his greatest crime in his long life of mis­deeds. He dispatched armed assassins ‘and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under’ (Matt. 2:16). It was his last act. Within weeks he was dead” (Johnson 22).

Production Values

“Three Days of the Condor” (1975) was directed by Sydney Pollack. Its screenplay was written by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfiel, as adapted from the novel Six Days of the Condor by James Grady. It was trimmed from six to three days to speed up the pacing of the movie. There were 1150 cuts in it averaging 5.7 seconds each, making it a fast-paced film. It was directed with clarity and precision, and coming right after Water­gate was in the avant guard of paranoia films under­mining trust in our government.

It stars Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von Sydow, and John Houseman. Max von Sydow made a sophisticated kraut 'hit man', John Houseman was a mysterious CIA senior official, and Cliff Robertson was an agent with an agenda. Robert Redford played his shifting roles down to the wire and looked good doing it. Faye Dunaway didn't upstage him.

It's rated R. The New York office of the CIA was set in the World Trade Center—true at the time. The CIA technology might seem under­whelming from a modern perspective, but, hey, it was 1975. This film showed some very good cinema­tog­raphy, filmed in New York City and Washington D.C. by Owen Roizman, and the atmos­pheric jazz score by Dave Grusin was a nice touch.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This was my favorite movie of the 1970s. Actually, it was the only modern movie I went to see back then as I was reclusive at the time, but I don't regret the pick. It has a Christmas musical back­ground that is not too saccharine. It is more a buildup of tension than heavy action, but the latter is peppered throughout pretty well. I think it's a good one.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Don't watch this movie alone. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Johnson, Paul. Jesus: A Biography from a Believer. New York: Penguin Books, 2011. Print.