'The Day of the Jackal: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Edward Fox, Terence Alexander, Michel Auclair, et al / Blu-ray / PG / (1973) 2018 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: A professional assassin codenamed "Jackal" plots to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France..
Blu-ray Verdict: Much like the novel from which it was based on, 'The Day of the Jackal' is a detailed, compelling and cold thriller.
For my money, Frederick Forsyth has never been an author who imbues his characters with much humanity or depth; he is much more adept with presenting technical and political aspects in fine detail.
This served him very well in the case of The Day of the Jackal, a novel that not only was detailed in these ways, but also was primarily about a cold calculated professional killer, whose lack of depth or real identity was actually a positive for the story. In other words this story was perfectly suited to Forsyth's style.
For those who don't know, the film is set in 1963 and is about a French right-wing political group who want president Chares de Gaulle assassinated because of his decision to grant Algeria independence. They hire a professional killer with no ties to them to carry out the difficult task.
Edward Fox plays the titular character with the requisite cold efficiency required. He is very much an anti-hero, as while he does murder some innocent people he is also the only figure in the film to really get behind.
The French authorities are shown to not be slow to use brutal methods on their enemies themselves, while the two policemen assigned to the case are so lacking in charisma that it's just very hard to get behind them in their pursuit of the villain.
If there is a fault with the film it must surely be that we as viewers are drawn to the Jackal and his against-all-odds mission - I think most people want him to succeed – and I'm not entirely sure this is what the film-makers actually intended.
The period detail and French locations are lovely, so cinematically this is a very attractive looking film. It's well-paced and direct with no wastage. We never get into the Jackal character's head ourselves as viewers, there is a definite distance and we don't always immediately know why he does certain things.
This only adds to the compelling voyeurism of watching him on his deadly mission. Despite the genre, there is a definite restraint shown in the depictions of violence.
It's often implied or shown just off-screen. The focus of the film is very much on the way in which the assassin navigates through his mission via different methods of subterfuge. The film could not be further away in style from the laughable 90's remake 'The Jackal' (Bruce Willis), a film that seems to do everything in an opposite way.
'The Day of the Jackal' is, overall, an excellent political thriller that combines intelligence with a gripping narrative. It shows how this kind of material should be presented on screen, where less can absolutely be more.
The way that it always stays within the realm of the plausible is one of its strongest suits too. All this combined with its enigmatic central villain make it a superlative film. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
Original uncompressed 1.0 mono audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
New interview with Neil Sinyard, author of Fred Zinnemann: Films of Character and Conscience
Two rare archival clips from the film set, including an interview with Fred Zinnemann
Original screenplay by Kenneth Ross (BD-ROM content)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain
+FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector's booklet featuring new writing by critic Mark Cunliffe and film historian Sheldon Hall