Film: Three Days of the Condor
"What if there's a CIA within the CIA?"Three Days of the Condor
is a 1975 political thriller starring Robert Redford
, Faye Dunaway
, Cliff Robertson
and Max von Sydow
. It was directed by Sydney Pollack
Mild-mannered researcher Joe Turner (Redford) works for Central Intelligence Agency
in a small building in New York, reading book after book to review their plots to see if they either contain elements that may be similar to ongoing covert operations or else be useful ideas for the CIA to employ. One day during the holiday season Turner steps out of the office to grab his co-workers lunch at a nearby deli... during which a hit squad led by Joubert (von Sydow) enters the office and kills Turner's co-workers (and love interest Janice). Terrified, Turner calls in the deaths to his CIA handlers, who prompt him for his code name 'Condor' and order him to follow procedures for pick-up and debriefing. In the process, things keep getting messier and Turner begins to worry that his own employer the CIA is trying to murder him.
After a botched pick-up gets Turner's last friend in the CIA killed, Turner is forced to kidnap Kathy Hale (Dunaway) and use her apartment as a hideout. At first afraid for her life, Hale rather quickly falls for Turner and they sleep together. With her help, Turner is able to capture CIA honcho Higgins (Robertson) who reveals he himself is in the dark and wants Turner to stay "on the outside" to draw out the assassins so the CIA can figure out who's rotten within their own ranks. Now all Turner has to do is survive Joubert's attempts on his life, keep Kathy safe, and figure out why someone in the CIA wants him dead...
Three Days of the Condor provides examples of:
- Abnormal Ammo: In the opening scene, Turner proposes an ice bullet as the murder weapon in the novel that his colleagues are analyzing.
- Adaptation Distillation: The original novel had drug trafficking as the purpose of the internal conspiracy. After the 1973 energy crisis, the filmmakers decided to use oil instead. The original author agreed that this was a better and more plausible purpose.
- Affably Evil: Joubert. He comes to respect Turner after his various escape attempts. And after killing Atwood instead of Turner, Joubert offers Turner friendly advice, a ride to the train station... and even a gun. He seems relieved to no long need to kill him, in fact.
- Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: When Turner is talking to Kathy. (Neither of them think it's a good idea at this point.)
Kathy: You're not entitled to personal questions! That gun gives you the right to rough me up; it doesn't give you the right to ask me...
Joe Turner: Wh- wh- Rough you up? Have I roughed you up?
Kathy: Yes! What are you doing in my house?
Joe Turner: Have I? Have I?
Kathy: Going through all my stuff? Force...
Joe Turner: Have I raped you?
Kathy: The night is young.
- Badass Bookworm: Turner goes from being a meek researcher who reads books all day into a Crazy-Prepared field operative able to outfox a trained assassin like Joubert. His background as a bookworm with some technical work is why the CIA boss played by John Houseman thinks Turner will be able to evade both his would-be executioners and the CIA itself.
- Bait and Switch: It looks like Joubert is going to shoot Turner, but he kills Atwood instead. Turner then naturally assumes he'll be next, but Joubert just reassures him - the only person who's ordered him to kill Turner having just died.
- Bulletproof Vest: Subverted. A CIA clerk who is a friend of the protagonist Turner is asked to help bring him in for debriefing and is issued a bulletproof vest "just in case". In reality the meeting is a set-up to kill Turner — when it goes wrong the wounded killer aims carefully and shoots the clerk in the throat.
- Camping a Crapper: One victim gets machine-gunned through the toilet door.
- Can't Stop the Signal: Noticeably subverted with the Downer Ending.
- Clean Up Crew: A cleaning truck is seen investigating Turner's report of the shooting, and presumably cleaning up the mess afterwards.
- Code Name: Played straight, but Turner clearly doesn't think too highly of them and has to be prompted to remember his and those of his coworkers. (He later has Hale introduce herself to Higgins as "Sparrow Hawk", probably out of pique.)
- Cold War: Higgins justifies what happens because "The other side plays games too."
- Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Joubert's trenchcoat practicallly screams "bad guy".
- Corrupt Bureaucrat: Atwood. According to Higgins, he took a theoretical plan to the next level without approval - the loaded nature of this explanation does nothing to relax Turner.
- Creator Cameo: Pollack is both the voice of Hale's boyfriend on the phone, and a cab driver who nearly hits Turner.
- Deadly Delivery: The CIA analyst office where Turner works has its own security — CCTV cameras, locked doors, a guard — even the receptionist has a gun in the drawer. The killers get inside by sending in a man dressed as a postman, and as the place gets regular deliveries of books this doesn't seem strange. The postman killer tries the same trick on Turner in Hale's apartment, but this time he's suspicious enough to thwart it.
- Did I Mention It's Christmas?: It's Christmastime—decorations, trees, carols on the radio—but that plays no factor in the plot.
- Disposable Woman: Janice, Turner's almost-girlfriend. Subverted in the sense that she's not the sole motivating factor, and his whole office and friend serve that purpose.
- Downer Ending: With eight innocent people dead all because of what Higgins calls "a war game," Turner reveals to Higgins that Turner had told everything to the New York Times. But as Turner walks away...
Higgins: Hey, Turner! How do you know they'll print it? How do you know...?
- Also it's suggested that Turner will eventually be killed too, as he is unwilling to flee the country as Joubert advises.
- ...assuming Turner's sudden death doesn't trigger a sudden belief in his story.
- Everybody's Dead, Dave: The protagonist goes out of the office to get lunch and returns minutes later to find that all of his colleagues, friends and even his love interest have been murdered, himself the actual target and chance survivor.
- Face Death with Dignity: Janice looks up from her work to see three men and two silenced Ingrams pointed at her.
Janice: (calmly) I won't scream.
Joubert: I know.
- Film of the Book: Came out 1974 written by James Grady called Six Days of the Condor. The names of the characters were different, it had another reason for killing the readers (some higher ups in the CIA used the book shipments to smuggle drugs), had another faction (Oversight, which polices all intelligence agencies and reports only to the Senate) and killed Kathy on the last pages.
- Actually, Kathy (called Wendy in the book) was thought to be dead, but survived, though barely.
- 555: Used with several numbers.
- Front Organisation: American Literary Historical Society (the analyst group that Turner works for) and Five Continents Imports used by the Renegade Operation.
- Genre Savvy (In-Universe): Turner, due to his constant reading of action novels and comics as part of his job. Whether that's why he had a certain insight into Kathy's photography, or he's just that appreciative of it to begin with, isn't clear.
- Government Conspiracy
- London England Syndrome: Turner asks a phone operator for the Washington area code, then quickly appends that with "D.C.".
- Make It Look Like an Accident: Joubert makes it look like Atwood's death is suicide.
- A Match Made in Stockholm: Hale is kidnapped, held at gunpoint, bound and gagged by Turner—and that same night she's having sex with him.
- Ominous Multiple Screens: Used by the Major.
- Phone-Trace Race: The CIA thinks they've traced Turner's whereabouts, but Turner has stolen a phone linesman's kit and wired fifty phones together.
- Product Placement: Surely the reason why an Eastern Airlines plane is prominently featured, and an Eastern Airlines TV commercial plays when Turner turns the TV on.
- Properly Paranoid: For the movie itself, Condor came out right after Watergate and Vietnam exposed a lot of criminal goings-on in government. And for Turner, this is how one day of being hunted by trained CIA assassins makes him this.
Higgins: You never complained until yesterday.
Turner: You didn't start killing my friends until yesterday!
- Punch Clock Villain: Joubert. He certainly doesn't seem to relish his work so much as the odd freedom it provides.
Turner: (after Joubert shoots Atwood) Why?
I don't interest myself in "why". I think more often in terms of "when", sometimes "where", always "how much"
- Shipper on Deck: Joubert asks Turner why he chose "the girl" (Hale) as a hostage. Turner claims it was random, but Joubert doesn't seem to buy it...
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Turner kidnaps Hale in an attempt to evade his pursuers. Hale is obviously terrified of this gun-toting lunatic raving about working for the CIA, and doesn't appreciate getting tied up half the time. But the first chance they get, they start making out.
- Sniper Pistol: Joubert uses a silenced and scoped Broomhandle Mauser at one stage.
- Spanner in the Works: The only reason Turner survived the massacre was because it was raining, so he goes out the back way to get lunch. As the assassins assume he's still in the building, they go ahead with their plan.
- Spared by the Adaptation: Joubert dies in the book, but lives after saving Turner's life in the movie.
- Stockholm Syndrome: Kathy's decision to sleep with Turner clearly has elements of this. Until an assassin bursts into her home the next day, she has no reason to believe that anything Turner says is true. The squick is toned down a bit by his connecting his earlier observation that her photographs have a fleeting, "November; not Autumn, not Winter, in between" element to them, to her interest in people.
- Strategy Schmategy: In a scene early in the film, Joubert discusses this trope, stating that he can't predict what Turner is going to do after going into hiding because he doesn't believe Turner himself, being an analyst rather than an agent, knows what he's going to do.
- War for Fun and Profit: The CIA is involved in provoking a war in the Middle East to ensure plentiful oil supplies to the US.
- You Know Too Much: Turner at both the beginning and end of the movie. Also Turner's friend who was supposed to help bring him in is killed because he sees Wicks try to shoot Turner instead.