Pollack’s ‘Condor’ heartfelt political thriller

Villanovan Editor

The late Sydney Pollack was a man who dared to confront the political side of life with his art and courage.

He seamlessly moved from acting to producing and directing, and when helming a film, he was one of the few Hollywood artists who could tap the most controversial subject and turn it into a drama, a thriller or a comedy. His versatility escalated his talent.

As a director, his most notable position, he won two Academy Awards, along with several other prestigious honors throughout his 50 years in the film industry.

He was not afraid to venture into unknown territory, for he had the edge to get to the top.

One of Pollack’s most political works is “Three Days of the Condor.” Made in 1975, “Condor” was loosely based on the novel “Six Days of the Condor” by James Grady.

The plot follows Joe Turner, played by Robert Redford, a mild-mannered CIA researcher working in New York City.

He is not the typical gun-touting suave agent one normally thinks of; rather, Turner is a bookish introvert who prefers a cubicle over the field.

But when he comes back from lunch one day to find his entire office staff assassinated, Turner is thrown into a conspiracy about operations in the Middle East and has to struggle to survive.

Along with Faye Dunaway portraying Turner’s victim-turned-lover, Redford shows his progression from cowardly employee to bold secret agent, code named “Condor,” as he digs for the truth.

One of the reasons why “Condor” works is Redford’s performance as he plays a powerless, non-corrupt hero; he is believable as a sympathetic everyman on the run.

Another point of interest was Pollack’s choice to set Turner’s CIA office in the Twin Towers.

In an interview conducted in 2007, when asked why he used the Twin Towers in his film, Pollack responded, “I didn’t want to have a building that said CIA on it because I didn’t think that would exist. I figured they would want some kind of anonymity and that the best kind of anonymity are these two massive buildings with thousands of offices, and you wouldn’t know who’s where.”

Of course, since the terrorist attack in 2001, the Twin Towers have become much more than a set of tall buildings for today’s viewers.

Pollack strove for political intricacy in his films, particularly in “Condor.”

During the ’60s and ’70s, the American public became more suspicious of its government’s practices following such events as Watergate and the 1973 Arab oil embargo.

Pollack strove to focus on the impending problems our government was facing in the Middle East and how not all the government’s spokespeople were conniving.

“It’s much more complicated to say, here’s a bunch of guys whose job it is to protect us, and they’re saying there’s no way we’re going to sell the fact that the Middle East [states] control the oil and if we don’t get control of the oil and they [seize its production], we’re going to end up with what we have now,” Pollack said.

The film’s cinematic complexity on politics has been an inspiration for many future films, from the “Bourne” trilogy to “The Pelican Brief.”

Pollack made numerous movies after “Condor” and won Oscars for “Out of Africa” in 1985 and “Michael Clayton” in 2007.

Pollack died of cancer on May 26 at 74, just two months after the passing of his fellow director and producing partner, Anthony Minghella, whose film “Breaking and Entering” was shown by the Cultural Film & Lecture Series last week.

“Three Days of the Condor” will be screened four times as part of this semester’s CFS “In Memoriam” in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m.

Admission is free for students with ID and $5 for all others.

At the Monday showing, Seth Mulliken, who teaches film in the communication department, will introduce the film and lead a discussion afterward.

For more information, please contact the communication department at x9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the CFS Web site: www.villanova.edu.