Three Days of the Condor (1975) – A Review


A review of the 1975 spy thriller Three Days of the Condor starring Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway and Cliff Robertson, directed by Sydney Pollack

Three Days of the Condor Robert Redford

Joe Turner (Robert Redford) is a CIA analyst on the run after the New York City office he was working out of is targeted by assassins, leaving everyone dead, except him. He’s on his own in the city not knowing who to trust, why he’s in danger and having no real field experience is leaving him feeling very overwhelmed. As he keeps telling everyone he’s just a researcher. “I just read books!”

All his book knowledge starts to come in handy as he manages to avoid a hitman (Max Von Sydow), deal with a shady CIA deputy director (Cliff Robertson), kidnaps and seeks refuge with a woman (Faye Dunaway) and begins to unravel the mystery as to why everyone wants to silence him.

Three Days of the Condor is a quintessential 1970’s paranoid thriller. A bit more conventional and mainstream than some of its contemporaries like The Parallax View and The Conversation, Condor it’s still very entertaining.

I hadn’t watched this in ages, but always remembered the very beginning when the hit is carried out on the office. It’s brutal and tense. It really sets the danger and stakes that Redford will be facing throughout the film.

There are plenty of close calls for Redford as he navigates through the story not knowing who is on his side, who he can trust and what exactly he did to put himself in this predicament.

There are some terrific suspenseful scenes involving him avoiding Sydow and his killer accomplices. It’s the white-knuckle kind of stuff that you really want to see when watching a thriller. And this one directed by Sydney Pollack doesn’t disappoint. 

Three Days of the Condor Robert Redford Faye DunawayIt’s a gritty film, the type that seemed to be the specialty during the 1970’s. New York during this time has a certain unique real-world flavor that seems to have gotten lost over time. Watching Redford walk the cold streets the ambiance of the city just oozes from the frame. Somehow most New York-set movies today feel antiseptic. N.Y. feels more background and is rather lifeless for some reason. I’m not sure what that’s about.

My only real main gripe with the movie is Redford and Dunaway’s relationship and it escalates way too quickly and conveniently into the romance department. It comes so fast, is so unbelievable and absurd it punctures the reality the movie was rolling with from the start. I understand an element of trust has to grow between the two for the story’s sake, but it’s pushed through so easily that it just had me rolling my eyes.

Other than that, Redford is solid throughout the whole movie and it’s one of those movies where you understand what made him such a popular star during his peak years. It’s a terrific yarn and one that continues to hold up.


3 thoughts on “Three Days of the Condor (1975) – A Review

  1. The spy genre is possibly my favourite genre, and 3 Days of the Condor is certainly one of my favourites. A plausable story, some terrific set pieces and three performances that range from excellent (Redford) to phenomenal (Von Sydow) With the exception of the opening assasination set piece, the one scene I always remember is the one between Turner and the assassin, played phenomenally by Max Von Sydow. What looks like will lead to either a contained shoot out, or fight sequence, instead we get a suspenceful and tension filled barely spoken exchange between hitman and target.

    The film holds up extremley well, and I love how it proves that exciting blockbuster don't have to be dumbed down. Sure not every thriller has to be The Conversation (one of my favourite films of all time) and Condor proves how a well balanced thriller can be both reflective and entertaining.

  2. This film has influenced so many spy films of late from the Bourne series to Mission Impossible. The film is just excellent. So many elements just work. I agree the romantic angel is rushed but I think Hollywood then felt it needed to add a romantic subplot even when it is not needed.

    Still has one of the best final scenes and it ends perfectly.

    "How do you know they will print it !" and Turner looking back at us anxiously as he knows his nightmare has just begun. Brilliant

    I always thought the character of Higgins was very strong and before passed away I always hoped
    Cliff Robertson would have revisited that character in another film about the CIA but which had nothing to do with Condor. Never mind, our loss

    Glad you reviewed it.

    1. Maybe it feels so rushed because the book was called "Six Days of the Condor."

      You got to give it to this movie. If there is one word I would used to describe it, it would be realistic. This isn't some travelogue fantasy like the James Bond films. And it's not an action adventure in the Die Hard vein. It's a movie about a guy who is in serious trouble. And has to deal with government heavies.

      The best scene in the film is the fight between the mailman and Turner. It doesn't feel like a choreographed ballet like the Matrix films in the nineties. It even lacks the polish of a modern film. It is two guys trying to kill each other anyway they can using any dirty trick they can use.

      And in true 70's style, it ends with a question on whether or not the hero really WON. Only John Sayles makes movies like that anymore.

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