‘3 Days of the Condor’ 4K Ultra HD movie review
Director Sydney Pollack’s 1975 political thriller gets a 4K upgrade for a new generation of American audiences to appreciate its nail-biting intrigue.
Adapted from James Grady’s 1974 novel, 3 Days of the Condor (Kino Lorber, rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 117 minutes, $39.95) introduces mild-mannered, CIA analyst Joe Turner (Robert Redford) who spends his day looking for secret intelligence in foreign books and entering them into a computer in New York City for the American Literary Historical Society (a front for the spy organization).
After returning from lunch, Joe finds all of his co-workers murdered and fearing he was next, calls the CIA for help but ends up barely escaping a deadly trap set up by his bosses before going on the run.
He gets help from innocent bystander Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway) after he kidnaps her and hides in her apartment, and the pair begin to fall in love.
The intriguing premise leads to a swirling tale of paranoia and conspiracy as Joe has no idea who to trust in a cat-and-mouse game as he tries to survive and unravel the truth behind the murders.
The scenes with Mr. Redford and Dunaway oddly sizzle throughout (watch their eye contact) with the pair of veteran superstars executing their craft with plenty of chemistry.
Additionally, the spy plot gets complemented by Cliff Robertson as not-to-be-trusted CIA Deputy Director Higgins, Max von Sydow as the efficient assassin Joubert, and John Houseman as the unemotional intelligence chief Wabash.
4K in action: Considering Paramount and Kino Lorber were dealing with a nearly 50-year-old movie, their restoration artisans have done a fantastic job bringing the film to nearly pristine life.
The new 4K scan from the original negative with high dynamic range grading brings the most subtle images to viewers’ eyes such as a man’s reflection in a quavering puddle on the street, the sweat droplets on Joe’s brow or light refractions on the panels of a helicopter during a nighttime landing.
New York City also comes to life with a stunning shot of the World Trade Center towers, the congested bridges, Central Park greenery and the extremely white corridors of the Guggenheim Museum, all worth stopping the movie to appreciate.
Overall, viewers get a very clean and surprisingly crisp presentation, never oversaturated or grainy and looking faithful to its color-muted, film stock roots.
Best extras: As always required for my appreciation of the historical aspects and minutiae of a great film, Kino Lorber offers a pair of enveloping optional commentary tracks that shed full light on the production.
First, and most important, we get an intermittent perspective from the director with a track originally released in 2009.
Pollack touches on the Joe Turner character, locations, plot construction, but equally explores the shadowy nature of his intelligence industry with the film predicting its meddling in the Middle East and at the geopolitical level. He offers a pointed and well-spoken deconstruction of his masterpiece.
Next, film historians Steve Mitchell (a guy obsessed with New York City) and Nathanial Thompson deep dive into and around the movie.
They cover the standard production breakdowns but giddily touch on minutiae such as the director switch from Peter Yates to Pollack (Mr. Redford demanded it), the manufacturing rainstorms, how the screenplay was so perfect that professors use it in course instruction and how Mr. Redford was working on “All the President’s Men” at the same time of the shoot.
Next and equally important, viewers get a 60-minute documentary about the work of Pollack, starring Pollack, originally produced and released by French distributor Studio Canal for its 2009 high definition transfer.
The esteemed director talks about his early acting years, having Burt Lancaster as his mentor for the switch to directing, but mainly has Pollack discuss most of his major films including “They Shoot Horses Don’t They,” “Jeremiah Johnson,” “The Way We Were,” “The Yakuza” “Three Days of the Condor,” “Bobby Deerfield,” “The Electric Horseman,” “Absence of Malice,” “Tootsie,” “Out of Africa” and “Havana.”
The segment also features plenty of comments by one of his best friends and frequent collaborators, Mr. Redford.
A final featurette and the icing on the extras cake, also from Studio Canal from 2009, adds another 25-minute retrospective of the film as explained exclusively by Mr. Redford and Pollack.