The Conversation (1974)
It really was a great movie. Gene Hackman was really amazing and the film-making was superb. As a thriller, I was hooked. As a time capsule, it was interesting to see such professional surveillance in non-governmental entities. And yet, it makes sense that they would exist then and now.
Overall, it’s not really a spy movie. It is a movie with surveillance and paints a nuanced portrait of a surveillance expert and his assignment but it’s really more about the consequences of surveillance. At this point, the NSA had been around for 22 years and they would have very likely heavily recruited Harry Caul as fast as possible. Of course, at this point, the NSA wasn’t technically public knowledge. It’s fortuitous for Coppola that it came out as Watergate did but is ultimately just a coincidence.
You can follow Caul forward in time to Brill in 1998’s Enemy of the State to perhaps inspire conversations about mass surveillance but The Conversation does seem to be more of a Blowup-style thriller less a social commentary.
Wonderfully made though. One of the best films I’ve seen from the 70’s so far.
Not a spy movie though.
Worth watching anyways!
p.s. Young Robert Duvall looks like Will Patton.