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Literature / The Day of the Jackal

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The plot.

"The day of the Jackal was over."

Frederick Forsyth's most famous novel, by some margin.

The year is 1963. Following a a deeply divisive and costly Civil War, French President Charles de Gaulle has granted independence to Algeria. His decision is seen as a betrayal by many of his former supporters. A disenchanted paramilitary group, the Organisation de L'Armée Secrète (OAS), has vowed to kill de Gaulle in revenge but each plot has failed. In desperation, the OAS turn to a mysterious foreign assassin, known only as "The Jackal", to carry out the job. The government learns of the plot, but know nothing of the would-be assassin besides his code name. So they call upon the best detective in France: Deputy Commissioner Claude Lebel, who is given unlimited authority to capture or kill The Jackal, with only two requirements: no publicity, and do not fail.


Adapted into a 1973 film directed by Fred Zinnemann, starring Edward Fox (of the Fox acting dynasty) as the Jackal and Michael Lonsdale as Lebel; Delphine Seyrig and Derek Jacobi appear in small parts. The 1973 film adaptation holds us for nearly two and a half hours as we watch as the Jackal's plans proceed with inexorable precision, as Lebel struggles to thwart a man of whom he knows nothing: no name, no picture, no nationality. He isn't even sure if the plot is real or simply the ravings of a tortured terrorist. To make matters worse, the terrorists have infiltrated the French Cabinet, and the Jackal is being passed valuable information about the pursuit. After the members of the cabinet tire of Lebel using the authority they granted him to find the cabinet member who is leaking information, they essentially fire him, thinking they can find the Jackal easily enough. When that doesn't work, they reluctantly call Lebel back, in desperation, because the Jackal has eventually disappeared, and they need to find him before he carries out the assassination.


The Jackal is a far looser 1997 adaptation.

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The Day of the Jackal novel provides examples of:

    Tropes A-D 
  • Affably Evil: Lampshaded by Lebel when witnesses talk of what a perfect gentleman the Jackal is.
    They were the worse ones. No-one ever suspected them.
  • Ambiguously Bi: When the Jackal is heading to Paris, he seduces a woman, which allows him to sleep indoors without leaving a paper trail at a hotel. Having arrived in Paris, instead of looking for a suitable woman he lets himself be picked up at a gay bar. He is not shown having any trouble finding the bar, and knows how to dress and act to get the right type of attention ... it's almost like he's familiar with the gay scene in Paris.
  • Arms Dealer: The man who provides The Jackal with the take-down sniper rifle is one of these.
  • Asshole Victim: The colonel who is seduced into becoming a source of information for the OAS Honey Trap. He's an Obstructive Bureaucrat only concerned with his own ego and the sycophantic advancement of his career. No-one's sorry when he's exposed and has to resign in disgrace.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: The book often goes out of the way to describe just how well-dressed the Jackal is.
  • Bad Habits: One of the Jackal's disguises is as a Danish clergyman.
  • Bank Robbery: The Jackal suggests the OAS carry out some of these to fund his fees. A string of these eventually leads the Action Service to notice that something is up.
  • Beware the Nice Ones / Beware the Quiet Ones:
    • Lebel is calm, soft-spoken, and keeps his mouth shut until asked. He has also taken down some of France's most powerful and dangerous criminals.
    • And the Jackal himself is soft-spoken, a Quintessential British Gentleman on the surface, and one of the most lethal killers around. The trope is lampshaded by Lebel when he notes that this is the most dangerous type of criminal, because no-one ever suspects them.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The OAS are terrorists who tortured during the war in Algeria and are plotting to murder the President of France. The French security forces trying to thwart them employ brutal and illegal tactics, including kidnapping and torture.
  • Blackmail: A forger tries to blackmail the Jackal. It doesn't end well for him.
  • Blackmail Backfire: The documents forger tries to swindle more money out of The Jackal, and follows up by not bowing to the Jackal's one request (that they don't meet at the forger's apartment for payment) when the Jackal accepts. The Jackal breaks his neck and stuffs his body in a trunk in response.
  • Boring, but Practical: Lebel eschews fancy espionage tradecraft in favor of simply looking at the case deeper than the other guys. In fact, this is exactly how he catches the Jackal: During the Liberation Day parade, he goes around the security cordon and asks the gendarmes one by one until he stumbles upon one guard who let in a guy who fits the Jackal's profile.
    • Similarly, he also doesn't rely on any fancy detective tricks to bust OAS's mole inside the French cabinet. He just bugs their phones, all of them.
    • The move by the French police of grabbing the guest records of all the hotels in the country and search through every single one of them for the signature of the aliases they know the Jackal could be using (and the search through all of the birth and death records in the countries they know the Jackal was in for said aliases). Brute-force (and in an era of pure paper records incredibly slow) but still provides them with all of the information they need to keep track of the Jackal.
    • Need money to pay the Jackal? Just rob a bunch of banks and jewelry stores. Though as the Bank Robbery trope listing points out, they have to do it so much that they end up giving away that the OAS is up to something.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Part of the reason the OAS hires an outsider to assassinate De Gaulle is because their own rank and file are littered with Action Service infiltrators, meaning their plots are quickly discovered and foiled.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: A British citizen called Charles Calthrop is suspected of being the Jackal because nobody can find the man, he's got connections to international arms dealers (of some dubious legality) and it's a name so close to the assassin's Nom de Guerre that the authorities assume that it must be a case of Steven Ulysses Per Hero. While following this apparent lead does actually bring the police closer to finding the Jackal, it's not until the epilogue that Mr. Calthrop comes back to his apartment after a holiday and is revealed to have been a Red Herring all along.
  • Cold Sniper: The Jackal himself, though occasionally he snaps.
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination: The Jackal plans to assassinate Charles DeGaulle at a public event, notably the award ceremony on Liberation Day. Justified as it is the one occasion he can be certain the President of France will turn up, no matter what threats have been made against his life (DeGaulle is refusing to alter his schedule or live his life differently, but the Jackal doesn't know this, and couldn't count on it anyway).
  • Consummate Professional: The gunsmith is both skilled at his job, respectful of his deals with clients, and knowledgable enough to avert Have You Told Anyone Else?.
  • Clock Discrepancy: The 1962 assassination attempt on De Gaulle failed because Bastien-Thiery was consulting the almanac for the wrong year and so misjudged when sunset was. This made it too dark for the gunmen to see his signal and they opened fire too late.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: The woman who is Spying on Saint-Clair lost both her brother and her fiancé in Algiers, miscarried her baby and made an unsuccessful suicide attempt in the past.
  • Dead Man's Chest: Done to a blackmailing photographer.
  • The Determinator: The Jackal carries out his plan despite his cover identities being blown and the massive manhunt for him. From this Lebel deduces that he not only has a foolproof plan of assassination, but that it must take place on a particular date (otherwise he'd simply lay low until the heat dies off).
  • Driving Question: The Day of the Jackal—when is it?

    Tropes E-H 
  • Electric Torture: With crocodile clips to the testicles. The subject dies.
  • Enemy Mine: Colonel Rolland of Action Services asks the Unione Corse, the Corsican Mafia, for help locating the Jackal in exchange for reduced police pressure. The Unione does try to help Rolland, but aren't able to find any useful information.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Viktor Kowalski, the OAS courier, spends much of the novel fretting over his daughter, supposedly dying of leukemia. Ultimately he's captured by Action Services while trying to visit her in hospital. It turns out that she's perfectly healthy and they were using that as bait for a trap.
  • Evil Brit: The Jackal is British and a Professional Killer. Or is he? At the end of the novel, Her Majesty's Government point out there's no proof, given his multiple identities, that he was ever British in the first place. The Brit who originally came under suspicion, Charles Calthrop, turned out to be innocent.
  • Fatal Flaw: Subverted: Charles DeGaulle's pride doesn't actually get him killed, but only by the narrowest of margins and a quirk of fate.
  • Fearless Fool: Charles DeGaulle is too ballsy for his own good. His Establishing Character Moment is being cool during the assassination attempt of the prologue and even complaining that the men who tried to kill him had bad aim. As the investigation continues, the man keeps complaining about people asking him to do some change, any change, to his lifestyle to try to confuse the assassin (and insists the investigation be kept secret to prevent embarrassment). The Jackal's plan almost gets executed to perfection because DeGaulle absolutely refuses to not do his duties on Bastille Day.
  • Faux Yay: The Jackal pretends to be gay to sneak past a French manhunt, counting on the homophobia of the policemen to make them not bother to look closely.
  • Food Porn: The Jackal dines in rural France:
    He chose speckled river trout grilled on a wood fire, and tournedos broiled over charcoal with fennel and thyme. The wine was a local Cotes du Rhône, full, rich and in a bottle with no label. It had evidently come from the barrel in the cellar, the proprietor's choice for his vin de la maison. Most of the diners were having it, and with reason.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The Jackal's mission will fail, as De Gaulle died peacefully of natural causes several years later; the reader is reminded of this early in the novel.
  • Game Changer: None of the OAS's efforts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle succeeded, either because of poor planning (not getting the time of sunset correct) or because their ranks have been riddled with Action Service infiltrators. The Game Changer comes when the OAS leaders contract the services of a foreign assassin, about whom the French Secret Service know almost nothing.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: The Jackal is characterized as similar to this type, albeit an evil version.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Viktor Kowalski's girlfriend (a prostitute) wanted to abort their baby and Viktor physically kept her from doing so (after the girl was born, he gave her to a pair of friends without children).
  • Great Detective: Lebel.
  • Groin Attack: A would-be blackmailer gets this before the Jackal finishes him off. Of course, the Electric Torture to the penis and testicles...
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?:
    • Very subtly done. When the forger attempts to blackmail the Jackal, through his negotiations it gradually becomes clear that the Jackal is scoping out the possibility of anyone noticing if the forger simply disappeared.
    • Defied by the gunsmith, however, who — while he doesn't actually tell anyone else — makes a point of informing the Jackal that he has a habit of storing incriminating evidence relating to his clients in a place which will be rather easy to find in the event that some strange and sudden misfortune should befall him. The Jackal gets the message and lets him go, although not without also making it clear that should anything about his dealings with the gunsmith become known, the Jackal will subsequently make it his life's work to hunt down and execute the gunsmith in as painful a method as possible. The gunsmith also gets the message.

    Tropes I-L 
  • The Infiltration: The OAS has an insider close to a Government minister, who passes on information to the Jackal.
  • I Work Alone: The second reason why the Jackal is so hard to catch. Not only is he not on their files, the French intelligence agencies can't use their network of informants in the OAS either. The Jackal supplies his own weapon, false identities, and safe houses, only phoning a single contact who can pass on information from The Mole.
  • Jerkass: Colonel Saint-Clair de Villauban from De Gaulle's staff, a disdainful, snobby and nakedly ambitious careerist whose primary contributions to the Jackal crisis are pompous recitations of things that everyone present already knows or condescending skepticism towards Lebel's many efforts, which he frequently attempts to pick apart and undermine partly out of snobbery towards the low-born mid-ranking police officer and partly so that he can make sure he's seen to be on the right side should Lebel's efforts fail. He is also The Mole, albeit unwittingly, but his unthinking willingness to blurt out everything that's going on to his mistress doesn't help the reader's opinion of him or his competence.
    • Sir Jasper Quigley, a British Foreign Office official who hates de Gaulle, chews out a subordinate for helping with Thomas's investigation and openly "jokes" that he hopes Scotland Yard won't "try too hard" to stop the assassination. Besides being the quintessential Obstructive Bureaucrat, the book also discusses his chequered diplomatic career, including his support for appeasing fascism in the '30s.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The Jackal points out that it would be far easier (and more practical) for the OAS to simply get a suicidal fanatic to jump de Gaulle than to spend a fortune on an assassin. The reason they don't go this way is the difficulty in actually finding someone who is enough of a suicidal fanatic to sacrifice their life, but also rational enough to do the job right. The Jackal goes on to point out that they obviously have not been able to produce such a man, given that they are trying to get him to do the job.
  • Last Stand: Kowalski, the huge Polish OAS member who is kidnapped by French security forces, goes down fighting and immobilizes three agents before the rest finally overpower him.

    Tropes M-P 
  • Mandatory Unretirement: Lebel is abruptly dismissed by the cabinet in the belief that they can now find the Jackal without his help, but within days they are forced to recall him, as they have been unable to find the Jackal.
  • Master Forger: The Jackal acquires a set of false identity cards from a forger, who is not only able to make such papers but also advises the Jackal how to make himself look older (his plan is to disguise himself as an elderly wounded veteran so he can conceal a Scaramanga Special rifle in a set of crutches). The forger makes the fatal mistake of trying to blackmail the Jackal for more money.
  • Meaningful Name (also Fun with Acronyms): The Jackal is suspected to be an Englishman named Charles Calthrop, ergo Chacal, French for "Jackal". He actually isn't.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The OAS's spree of bank robberies draws the attention of French authority, who quickly realize something bigger's going on.
  • The Mole: The OAS is so full of Action Service infiltrators that Rodin trusts only Montclair and Casson, and has to rely on an outsider, namely the title assassin, for the task.
  • Mugging the Monster: The forger who decides that it would be a very good idea to blackmail the rather sinister Englishman clearly up to no good who has already spooked the crap out of him once before. He learns why this is a colossal mistake a bit too late.
  • Murder Simulators: Several assassins/attempted assassins are fans of the book or at least rumored to be. Carlos the Jackal got his nickname because he was mistakenly believed to own a copy. Yitzhak Rabin's assassin, Yigal Amir was found to have a copy; while his assassination of Rabin was quite different than that the Jackal attempts on de Gaulle, it's easy to see parallels between Amir and Bastien-Thiery. Vladimir Arutyunian, who attempted to assassinate both George W. Bush and the President of Georgia, kept an annotated copy of the book as a how-to-guide.
  • Mysterious Past: Much of the Jackal's past is only hinted at. What country did he come from? How did he gain his deadly skills? Did he really take part in the assassination of President Trujillo, or was that also a Red Herring? We never find out.
  • Near-Villain Victory: The Jackal actually manages one shot at de Gaulle before he gets killed.
  • Neck Snap: The Jackal does this a few times.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Three instances where the Jackal's precautions actually help the police...
    • The Jackal gets a false passport to conceal his identity. The police detects the ploy which gives them a name and a passport photo to use in the hunt. Had he gone by his real identity the police would never have left square one, being stranded chasing innocent Charles Calthrops.
    • When the Jackal commits a murder, ostensibly to cover his tracks, it gives the authorities an opportunity to drop De Gaulle's secrecy provision and hunt him openly.
    • The Jackal steals the murder victim's car instead of just using the slightly dented one he arrived with. This makes the police nearly catch him, it provides them with a name and photo of his backup identity, and alerts them to the fact that the Jackal has made it safely to Paris. The movie tries to avert this by making it very clear his car is a total wreck and will never move again. However it still leaves the very good question of why the Jackal didn't hotwire the first 2CV he came across instead of stealing the car of his victim which is guaranteed to be the subject of an APB in hours at best.
  • No Name Given: We never find out the real name of the Jackal. Lampshaded by the final line of dialogue: "If the Jackal wasn't Calthrop, then who the hell was he?!" The gunsmith and forger are also unnamed.
  • Obfuscating Disability: The war veteran identity, which justifies the crutches in which he hides his Scaramanga Special.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat:
    • Lebel has to report to a committee full of them. Every day.
    • On the British side is the Foreign Office bureaucrat who interferes in the investigation simply out of pique.
  • One Last Job: One reason why The Jackal's fee is so high is that he knows that he will never be able to work again after such a high-profile assassination, not to mention he will need to pay for a lot of precautions to keep himself hidden - every law-enforcement organization on the planet will be looking for him for the rest of his life.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted by Lebel, who is very effective at his job, but generally the French police force is (accurately) portrayed as being very good at catching criminals. Lebel is effective partly through personal talent but also through a very effective support structure at the national and city level. The police remain on the Jackal's tail throughout the plot. Played straight when they over-confidently think they will catch The Jackal soon and dismiss Lebel.
    • Also averted in that half the OAS's problems are because the Police are too good. Their operations and cells are penetrated and blown and in real life would be dismantled very soon after. The Jackal is an act of desperation because any other option would be detected and thwarted before they could try it.
      • There is also a mild Offscreen Moment of Awesome when Lebel reports the results of a records check. In the ten previous years they've had to contend with four contract killers. They got three of them and they know who the other one was but he's doing life in Africa. That's a 75% catch rate and a 100% detection rate and offers an early indication of just how hard the Jackal must work to evade the authorities.
  • Pressure Point: Action Service men once demonstrate their knowledge of this.
  • Pride: President de Gaulle's legendary pride poses a problem for the investigators when the plot against him is uncovered; he refuses to cancel his personal appearances, take any increased action to ensure his safety or allow the security services to engage in a public manhunt for the Jackal out of concern of the embarrassment to both him and France.
  • Professional Killer: The Jackal is one. His wages are so high that the OAS has to rob several banks to gather the money needed, though it's entirely justified - see the One Last Job entry.

    Tropes Q-T 
  • Red Herring: A man on British Intelligence's list of suspected assassins-for-hire has a name which suggests a Steven Ulysses Per Hero for the Jackal: Charles Calthrop ("Chacal" is French for "jackal"). He turns out to be a completely different person.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: The police manage to track down the Jackal while following a false lead; in the final scene, after the Jackal is dead, they discover that the man they thought was the Jackal is still alive, and totally innocent.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The OAS, as was Truth in Television.
  • Scaramanga Special: The Sniper Rifle is disguised as a crutch.
  • Sedgwick Speech: Bastien-Thiery gives one before his execution. He thinks that real French patriots would never kill him.
  • Shown Their Work
    • The opening assassination attempt really took place and is a very good re-creation. Not surprising, since Frederick Forsyth had covered the real-life events which inspired the film as a journalist for Reuters.
    • Perhaps most notably the method where the Jackal gets a fake passport, getting a birth certificate from a person who died as a child. Forsyth got some criticism for revealing that method. In his defense, Forsyth was trying to call attention to the loophole so it would be closed, and almost the entire criminal world was already aware of the trick and had been using it for years. See this article for more — amazingly, they only really started to close the loophole after almost 30 years (a year earlier, hippie author Abbie Hoffman had refused to publicize the method in Steal This Book!, out of fear of governments closing the loophole).
  • Shout-Out: A fairly subliminal one, but in one section of the book it's mentioned that the head of British Intelligence plays cards at a club called Blades. Blades is from the James Bond series.
  • Sniper Rifle: No surprise. The Jackal has one custom made in .22 Magnum and able to be disassembled and concealed in a crutch. He does need to sight-in the scope.
  • Spanner in the Works: Quite a few, but the most ironic one was Charles de Gaulle himself who's French, and therefore more likely to kiss a man on the cheeks instead of shaking his hand, thereby just dodging the Jackal's bullet.
    • The otherwise well-planned opening assassination failed because Bastien-Thiery looked at an almanac for the wrong year and so misjudged when the sun would go down. As a result it was too dark for the gunners to see his signal and they opened fire too late.
    • The leader of the OAS uses the Jackal's codename in front of his bodyguard, who is later captured by the Action Service. From this one mistake, the head of the Action Service deduces that the OAS have hired a Professional Killer and that De Gaulle must be the target.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: About halfway through the story, Lebel deduces that the Jackal, or "le chacal" in French, is a Brit by the name of Charles Calthrop. A subversion, as Calthrop is entirely innocent and unrelated.
  • Title Drop: The last line of the book.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The forger tries to blackmail a professional killer, mistaking him for an upperclass British dilettante dabbling in the drug trade. He gets a Neck Snap and stuffed in a trunk for his efforts.

    Tropes U-Z 
  • The Unsolved Mystery: The Jackal's true identity.
  • Villain Protagonist: The Jackal is the titular character and appears quite a while before Lebel.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: The cop who is with Lebel when he goes after the Jackal at the end gets some characterization but is killed without much fanfare.
  • What You Are in the Dark: The British Prime Minister (unnamed, but heavily hinted to be Harold Macmillan) has a moment like this at one point; an inspector in his country's police has been approached by the French authorities to follow up on a seemingly minor but potentially crucial aspect on the case. However, the Prime Minister has every reason to block the matter; de Gaulle has sabotaged British entry into the European Common Market (and, by extension, the Prime Minister's career), his government is full of obstructionists opposed to the French on principle, he's going to be out of office soon and no one would know if he did anything. The Prime Minister's conscience ultimately wins the day and he instructs the inspector to give the French his full and complete help in the matter.
  • Worthy Opponent: Lebel and the Jackal (Chacal in French) develop a grudging respect for each other, without ever meeting — with the Jackal again and again evading Lebel's clever traps and Lebel again and again penetrating the Jackal's clever disguises. Lebel certainly appreciates the Jackal far higher then he does the government officials he has to work with. When they at last meet face to face they look for a split second into each other's eyes, Lebel saying "Chacal" and the Jackal saying "Lebel" before they scramble to kill each other. Lebel having been a split second quicker, he on the following day attends the Jackal's burial in a nameless grave, saying nothing to the handful of other people present.
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Lebel remarks that the cabinet ministers he has to deal with think the Jackal is just some common criminal who keeps getting lucky. They have no idea how smart and dangerous he is. They learn this the hard way when they dismiss Lebel, thinking they can now catch the Jackal easily, only to find he has completely disappeared. They have to enlist Lebel's aid again.
  • Your Head A-Splode: Not 100%, but that's the Jackal's aim. Witness the watermelon scene.

The 1973 film provides examples of:

    Tropes A-Z 
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • While on the whole an extremely faithful adaptation, the filmmakers streamline the novel, cutting most of the historical and political backstory (especially marginalizing the OAS leaders, who have a much more prominent role in the novel, and omitting the subplot about British officials' reluctance to help de Gaulle) and several subplots (including the aforementioned scenes with the Unione Corse) and minor characters to make for a more efficient narrative.
    • The OAS courier who gets snatched, Viktor Wolenski (originally Viktor Kowalski), doesn't get lured to France by a forged letter to be extracted. Here, Action Service simply does a milk run where they snatch him off the street and smuggle him out of Italy—basically copying another abduction mentioned in the book where an OAS figure was kidnapped from Germany.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • A very small one, in the book the Jackel disguises his car registration by flipping over the plates and painting on a forged fictional number. In the movie we briefly see him steal a set (along with its registration card) off a Peugeot.
    • In the novel Lebel pays a discreet visit to the hotel where the Jackal stayed. In the movie it's cordoned off and searched by armed police, and Lebel is shown interrogating the staff and the woman the Jackal slept with.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: In the novel, the Interior Minister admires Lebel's professionalism and efficiency and defends him against Colonel St. Clair and others on the council. In the movie, he holds Lebel in thinly-veiled contempt and treats him with icy politeness throughout the film.
  • Adaptation Name Change: Viktor Kowalski is renamed Viktor Wolenski.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The i.d. forger who foolishly attempts to blackmail the Jackal, repeatedly sniffles and rubs his nose. When movies used to be forbidden to show cocaine being snorted onscreen or even say the word cocaine, they used these gestures as code for cocaine taking.
  • Blown Across the Room: To save himself from being shot, Lebel grabs the fallen gendarme's machine gun in desperation, and the bullets splash his target spread-eagle into the wall.
  • Casting Gag: OAS adjutant Wolenski is played by Jean Martin, better-known as Colonel Mathieu from The Battle of Algiers.
  • Contrived Coincidence: A deliberate plot point. When the British Home Office's investigation into the Jackal's identity hits a dead end, the official asks the Foreign Office if they might have encountered anyone who fits the limited description of the hired assassin. The Foreign Office official brings up a "Charles Calthrop", and adds that "Cha-Cal" forms the French word for "Jackal". The Home official's "Are you serious?" look speaks volumes.
  • Death by Adaptation: Colonel St. Clair, who simply resigns in the book after being exposed, commits suicide by sleeping pills.
  • Everybody Smokes: Everywhere like chimneys, being set in 1963.
  • Foil: The dishelved and overly chatty and inquisitive i.d. forger is contrasted to the tidy, disciplined, and quietly unassuming gunsmith.
  • Foreshadowing: About a half hour into the movie, we see the Jackal in a street market shopping for the clothes and medals he'll use for his "one-legged veteran" disguise to get past the gendarmes in the climax.
    • Before this, we see the Jackal observing Pere Lundqvist in Heathrow Airport, before stealing his passport. This is the second identity he's going to use once he gets into France.
    • Also an example that could only be used in the movie, we see the Jackal's flat very early on and Calthrop's bedsit a little later. They look nothing alike, giving an early hint that Calthrop is not actually the Jackal.
    • While the Jackal is working in his flat, the camera pans briefly over the papers on his desk. A brochure can be seen in the corner, advertising the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider, a small Italian sports car. The Jackal eventually travels to Italy, and actually decides to hire a Spider for himself. He continues to use the car for most of the rest of the movie, even specially modifying it to carry his unique weapon, before repainting it to avoid detection. He only abandons the car after he crashes it due to the mental fatigue caused by his constant attempts to evade the police.
  • Gilligan Cut: Bastien-Thiery telling his lawyer "No French soldier will raise his rifle against me." Cut to his execution by firing squad.
  • Gorn: Implied. The Jackal tests his rifle by shooting at a watermelon with a face painted on it. After getting the sights straight with plain bullets, he tries one of the explosive bullets, and red pulp splatters everywhere. That is going to happen to someone's head.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?:
    • The i.d. forger stupidly blabs to the Jackal without prodding that no one else knows and that only he knows where he hid the incriminating evidence on the Jackal and only he can access it.
    • The Jackal's lover inadvertently lets the Jackal know that, no, they have not told the police that they noticed the Jackal's face on TV.
  • Heavy Sleeper: One humorous scene reveals Lebel to be this. After trying to wake him up via talking and opening the window to let some light in, his wife resorts to picking up his leg by his big toe.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Averted because the ammunition is small caliber, probably .22; the ammunition is apparently subsonic, it takes a very noticeable time from shot to the impact even though the target is only 120 meters / 400 feet out; the chamber is closed, with no openings before the suppressor and the muzzle; and the noise that remains is a distinct "thump", but that would be completely drowned out by the noise and commotion of the ceremony anyway.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Having spent his career hiding and faking his identity everywhere, after being killed the Jackal ends up buried in a cheap coffin in an unmarked pauper's grave with only Inspector Lebel observing the burial, as a voiceover explains that authorities could find absolutely nothing about his true identity.
  • Master of Disguise: The Jackal disguises himself to fit the false passports he's created (though in the book it's the forger who advises the Jackal on how to do this).
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: The English actors playing French characters, mostly noticeable when they play scenes opposite actual French actors.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Jackal's lover has seen their new house guest's face all over TV and not bothered to find out what that was about. They go home, inform said house guest that their face is on TV, turns on TV, and gets to hear the reason. See Too Dumb to Live below.
  • Practice Target Overkill: The Jackal takes his custom-made sniper rifle to a remote wooded area to test it and to align its scope. This needs only two standard rifle bullets fired into a melon in a mesh tote bag, as the gunsmith had already tested it and tweaked the sights. Then comes one of the vaned, mercury bullets: the melon disintegrates and the tote was left in tatters.
  • Rewind, Replay, Repeat: The Action Service intelligence analysts are shown doing this as they transcribe Wolenski's torture interrogation.
  • Source Music: Opening narrative or at least the last part of it is apparently spoken by a newsman on the radio OAS members are listening to.
  • Translation Convention: Everyone speaks English at all time, regardless of nationality or context.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The i.d. forger attempts to blackmail the Jackal by meeting him completely privately instead of in public, and blabs away that no one else can find the incriminating evidence. The guy's a cocaine snorter so it's apparent why his judgment was stupidly awful.
    • The Jackal has gone into hiding by picking up a lover and living in with them for a while. The lover sees their new house guest's face all over TV, but does not stop to think "I wonder what that is all about?", and instead goes right back home and informs the guest that their face is all over TV, with a jovial carefree air that lets the Jackal know that the police has not been informed about this. Then they turn on TV and get to hear what the hubbub is actually about. Oh, Crap! moment and inevitability ensues.
  • The Voiceless: De Gaulle, who's always seen in crowds or long distance (unlike the book where he's a more substantial presence).
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The gunsmith, who disappears after the Jackal picks up his rifle. The movie excises a scene from the novel where the Jackal visits the gunsmith a third time, possibly to silence him, and the latter reveals he's collected incriminating evidence that will be released to the authorities should the Jackal murder him.
  • Withholding Their Name: The title character assumes several identities over the course of the story, but we never learn his real name and only a few hints about his background. Much of the plot hinges on a Red Herring, with investigators assuming he's another man (Charles Calthrop) with shady ties to international arms dealers.

Alternative Title(s): The Day Of The Jackal


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