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'3 Days of the Condor [Blu-ray]'
(Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, et al / Blu ray / R / (1975) 2009 / Paramount)

Overview: One of the most memorable paranoia thrillers of the 1970s, Sydney Pollack's Three Days of the Condor never loses its focus as a tense, compelling exercise in suspense. The plot rests on the premise that everyone with power is corrupt; Pollack and writers Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfiel keep the proceedings from devolving into the preposterous or unconvincing.

DVD Verdict: The spy adventure film "Three Days of the Condor" was released in 1975. This was a period when the American government and the commercial sector were in a panic over our access to oil. This was when President Gerald Ford, mindful of the power of the Oil Producing Export Countries, announced that in the future we might actually consider taking oil by force if it should be denied to America.

On the subject of Ford, we know that he followed Nixon, and that it was just one year before "Condor" was released that Ford's predecessor resigned in disgrace. What did him in? The Watergate Scandal. What was that? A series of clandestine activities, which once again lead back to the central point that this was a timely film.

Why is "Three Days of the Condor" even more timely today? Because of all that we have been through and what we know about the CIA and its clandestine activities that we did not know then. We have experienced 9/11 and skepticism increases over its causes and who put the plan into effect, much like those same questions being asked about the assassination of President Kennedy.

The reason why this film is even timelier today and can be better understood in a context better than three decades after its initial release is that we are much better informed about a major point discovered by Robert Redford, a book reader for the CIA who goes by the code name of Condor, is that there is an official CIA and another CIA. Often the latter will superimpose itself on the former. John Le Carre made the same point relative to MI5 in British intelligence.

Redford, working out of a New York office purporting to be an historical society, leaves one afternoon to order and bring back lunch for himself and the rest of the crew. After a little chitchat at the restaurant he returns to discover that everyone in the office has been fatally shot. Just where does he go from here? Redford explains on the phone to headquarters that he is no agent, and is just a research man who reads books and makes recommendations. He hopes to be brought in before he meets with the same fate as his office colleagues.

A smooth and suave Cliff Robertson is his contact operating out of the CIA's main headquarters in Langley, Virginia. When it is arranged for a station chief to come to New York to "bring him in," more trouble ensues. Redford has every reason to wonder if he has any allies left in "The Company" as he runs away from tragedy once more.

In an effort to secure at least temporary safety Redford kidnaps Faye Dunaway after she leaves a store where he has gone to temporarily hide from pursuers. A professional photographer who lives in Brooklyn, Dunaway at first resists Redford, but ultimately becomes an ally when she realizes that he is telling the truth and his life is in danger.

At one point Dunaway tells Redford that she is afraid to get to know him since he is not going to live very long. He disagrees, telling her that sense of danger is a driving interest force within her toward him. Ultimately they became romantically involved and she is willing to accompany him to Langley so he can confront Robertson.

The film was released not long after Daniel Ellsberg became famous for leaking what came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. In a fascinating twist at the end of the film, Redford uses the New York Times as a type of insurance policy. Some of the film's most dramatic scenes involve Redford and Robertson, with the former speaking for the best of America as he states the case for decency and accountability in government while the latter states the proposition for secrecy and an "end justifies the means" mentality.

Sydney Pollack in his director's role keeps the pacing fast as befitting a spy mystery involving pursuers and pursued. The camera work was magnificent. Some of the long shots are particularly fascinating in displaying New York City and Washington D.C. as large cities in the midst of winter amid the ongoing tension of Redford's tense battle to survive.

Two prominent character actors render solid performances; John Houseman as a veteran CIA officer and colleague of Robertson's and Max Von Sydow as a contract assassin who performs his tasks with consummate professional detachment. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the following Special Features:

Theatrical Trailer HD