One of my favourite films of all time. Obviously not ‘all time’ as they have only been making movies for less than a century and a quarter, but time enough. Its central premise is that a ‘CIA book-reader’ (yes he gets paid for reading books so as to uncover plots being hatched around the world) discovers one such plot and sends his report to Langley, the CIA headquarters. He hears nothing back so goes out to buy his office-mates, also paid book readers, their lunch-time sandwiches. Job Done!
Not quite so hasty!
When he is out ordering pastrami on rye, assassins walk into the offices disguised as ordinary workers such as postal men. They then set about killing everybody in the office. Even, the girlfriend of our central character, Robert Redford no less. Having done what they came to do, the assassins leave.
The main assassin is a sanguine, almost sad figure who does this kind of thing because the world is a bad, dark place and it makes no difference if he is part of the darkness or not. With everyone dead, job done!
Not quite so hasty!
What about Robert Redford with his sandwiches?
Robert, being the same Robert from Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, is a little bit of a rebel. He may be working for the literate branch of the CIA, but he has definitely got Democratic leanings. He doesn’t always follow the rules. It is this streak of nonconformity that saves him. In thespian circles, it is known as using the back door exit. He went out of the back door, jumped over a dividing wall and got to the sandwich shop without getting the drenching that he would have gotten if he had used the front. The front of the building was being watched. So, out hero escaped two showers, one of rain and one of bullets.
The rest of the movie concerns itself with the way the reader uses his limited skills, the previous acquisition of knowledge, to turn the tables on the assassins who belatedly realise that they had not quite finished the job. Job most certainly not done! The don’t anticipate that a book reader can do anything other than shuffle leafs. Enid Blyton he is not. He uses his unquestionable intelligence to hunt the hunters and in doing so gets to bed an attractive woman whom he has previously never met before. A job well done for Seventies Man!
You see our chief assassin has gained some respect for our hero and sort of helps him in his mission to uncover a conspiracy plot that runs all the way to the head of the CIA. They, the naughty little devils, were planning to overthrow certain oil-rich states in the Middle-East. At that time, fuel was being rocketed through the economic ceiling by the inscrutable OPEC states. The West needed its cheap as chips gas to continue with its democratic mission to rule the world. So, a good idea as long as nobody found out about it. As Nixon would have testified, good ideas turn into bad ideas is Robert Redford is around with any buddy be they Paul Newman or Dustin Hoffman.
Three Days of the Condor is a moody old movie that builds on the tensions of its time. I have watched it perhaps on fifty occasions and will now return to it as soon as is possible. I will have to put down a book or two to do so.
Now, the point of this post is that times change but things also stay the same. The carol, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, is supposed to usher in a season of harmony and peace to all men, but it won’t. There will be plots and bombs, arseholes with assassination on their agendas, and the general misery that surrounds all seasons to be jolly.
That’s why Max Von Sydow had that expression upon his face.