Cinema: Empty Vehicle

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A piece of dotty, slightly paranoid intrigue. Three Days of the Condor promises little and keeps its word. It is hard to get indignant about it, or enthusiastic either. There is no clear compliment the movie can be paid without an immediate qualification: it is smooth but forgettable, bearable but brainless. The film has nothing novel to say and nothing to offer except Robert Redford. But the way things work in Hollywood these days, Redford is enough.

Three Days of the Condor should be considered not so much as a movie as what Hollywood calls a project. Based on a least-selling novel called Six Days of the Condor, by James Grady, such a project is conceived and comes into being only because Redford agrees to show up in it. Redford is a good, shrewd, sometimes very funny actor, but the fact that movies like Three Days of the Condor are not really worth making at all is a thought that occurs to no one. Neither Redford, Director Sydney Pollack (The Way We Were) nor any of the assortment of assembled co-stars (Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von Sydow, John Houseman) can make material like this better than passable. No one could, and you wonder why anyone bothers. Redford and all his co-stars and all the elaborate production details are aimless embellishment, like putting neon lighting around a void.

All these melancholy thoughts occur during Condor because there is little else to think about. Everything in the movie is familiar. Redford appears as Turner, a blithe, intelligent functionary in an unimportant CIA office in New York. He finds all his co-workers slaughtered one day. Figuring that he is next on the list for removal, he takes it on the lam. Turner calls into headquarters for help, but it seems that headquarters wants to kill him too. Everyone wants to kill him, except the melancholy, liquid-eyed Kathy (Faye Dunaway). Redford rewards her by commandeering her car and apartment, tying her to the toilet. He makes it all up to her (presumably) by making love to her, an occasion for which he releases her from bondage.

After this requisite romantic interlude, Redford goes on the run again, trying to sort the good guys from the bad. The movie is predictable enough to pass as a game of fill-in-the-blanks; audiences could be invited to contribute their own gimmicks. Condor is so pat, however, that no matter what extravagances of plot were supplied, everything would still come out the same way in the end: empty.