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Sydney Pollack Blogathon-Day 1

July 1, 2013

The Sydney Pollack Blogathon starts off with 2 posts one by yours truly on 3 Days of the Condor, another by Citizen Screenings, Aurora       on  The Firm.


3 Days of the Condor is one of my favorite thriller movies, and here I look at the atmosphere of fear and paranoia it generates, as well as the tension.  

3 Days of the Condor was  Sydney  Pollack’s  8th  feature, he had already  made his impact earlier, with a series of  movies, ranging from the Depression era classic  They Shoot Horses Don’t They?  to the Western  Jeremiah Johnson  to a more conventional love story The Way We Were.  It was also his 3rd  collaboration with Robert Redford, whom he directed earlier  in Jeremiah Johnson and The Way We Were.  The  movie was in line with a series of  “conspiracy thrillers”  that hit the screens in the 70′s and 80′s, but with a difference. Unlike the earlier conspiracy thrillers, that  revolved around the  evil Soviet empire,  the enemy in these thrillers was within. Big Govt, big business trying to suppress the truth, forming a shadowy cartel sometimes in cahoots with the CIA and FBI, was the main backdrop.  It was not CIA  vs KGB, it was  CIA vs the people within it.  If  Jack Nicholson in Chinatown was up against a real estate cabal in LA, Warren Beatty  tries to unravel a sinister organization in The Parallax View and Gene Hackmann, a surveillance expert in The Conversation , finds he ironically could be the target of it.


Aurora  at  Citizen Screenings, takes a look at Contemporary Cinema, in her blog. And here she chooses to explore, Sydney Pollack’s  1993 movie adaptation of  John Grisham’s legal thriller,  The Firm, and how well he did adapt it to the screen. In her words.

Admittedly, Sidney Pollack had a lot of trouble trying to visualize John Grisham’s hugely popular novel, “The Firm,” as a feature film.  He felt that if he followed the book exactly, he couldn’t make the film work.  So, he made changes to the script that many disagreed with.  One of those changes is the ending of the story in the film, which is quite different from the one depicted in Grisham’s novel.  I have no problem with the changes Pollack made to the film, except that it is too clean, if that makes any sense.   While the overall story told in Pollack’s version of the story is clear and enjoyable, there are several convoluted moments in the film where one wonders what’s going on.  It’s a bit messy and I feel the ending should be a bit messy too.  Having said that, with a running time that exceeds two hours, The Firm manages to keep me interested for its duration.


  1. K V Ramesh permalink

    The whole Snowden thing makes it clear that more than ever citizens have more to fear from their own government than any external enemy . But nowadays the CIA and all “the Powers” are Heroes with a capital H. Witness Jessica Chastain hardly flinching when a suspect is physically tortured in front of her in Zero Dark Thirty. Contrast that with this film where the hero – just an ordinary Joe – doesnt know who are his friends and who are his enemies. And is the enemy really on the outside ? The final exchange between Cliff Robertson and Robert Redford is now more than ever real . IIRC it goes like
    RR : ” Wait a minute . Oil? Is this all about oil?”
    CR : ” When we run out of resources , not now , but in the future , what will the people do ? What do you do when your heating oil is not available ? ”
    RR:” ” Ask them”
    CR : ” No. We dont have to have . They will ask us to GET IT FOR THEM “.

    IRAQ and WMD . Be Afraid ! Be very AFRAID !

    There is one more 1972 thriller called Scorpio starring the ever dependable BUrt lancaster and Alain Deloin where both work fof the CIA and for some unknown reason Lancaster is supposed to be “terminated ” by Deloin – this after Lancaster has carried out many termination operations for the CIA

    Once again – BE AFRAID !

    Seen in that context, Pollack has got the time , the early 1970s anti-Government feelings perfect. Those who research the times have to only Google The Church Hearings and the whole anti CIA anti Intelligence authorities feelings of the times will be apparent and this is captured in essence in this film.

    • If we take a look at some of the Top movies in 2012, be it Argo or Zero Dark Thirty, both of them seemed to celebrate Pax Americana, the chest thumping version, and torture, surveillance all seem par for the course. When Spielberg made Minority Report in 2001, it was thought that he was making a statement on the Patriot Act, indirectly, warning of the dangers of Govt snooping into the lives of private citizens. And ten years down the line, Hollywood seems to think it’s perfectly okay for Govts to torture, snoop on citizens all in the interests of national security. I guess in the 70′s anti Govt feeling, was due to Watergate, but more due to Vietnam war. The fiasco in Vietnam, shook the faith of many in the status of America as a superpower, and Watergate just about added to it. Today, I think Obama is able to get away with the snooping, because of the victory in capturing Osama, the military ops in Libya, so there really is not much anti Govt feeling.

  2. Hi Ratnakar! I have a guest post I’d like to submit but I’m going out of town until Sunday night. Would it be ok if I submit it to you next week? It’s on Castle Keep (1969) 😀

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