Three Days of the Condor (1975)
“Are we going to invade the Middle East?” – Robert Redford as Joseph Turner
I’d say it’s great and it really is. The opening premise is classically awesome and the rest is actually pretty good as well.
That being said, there are some points that stretch the suspension of disbelief almost to their breaking point but spy movies aren’t documentaries so who cares? I think that was probably the worst thing that anyone said about this movie, that it couldn’t trump what was in the newspapers. Considering the cinematic dross of its peers, this movie was fantastic!
The extreme distrust of the government and the CIA presented in the movie were a natural reflex response by the nation to the Church and Pike Committees and Watergate etc. The fact that the CIA was mysterious and full of spies and considered a secret paramilitary arm of the government fueled a large amount of confusion about what they actually did compared to what they might be doing. Facts get confused with speculations and there is a maelstrom of truth, lies and public opinion. Sometimes when there is a mystery that isn’t clearly explained or explainable, people try to conjecture to fill in the gaps. The same effect that Kryptos has on people who lose track of reason (K4 Syndrome) is what occurred and still occurs with personal perceptions of the CIA. Pro tip: the concept of there being a secret CIA within the CIA has its origins with Anatoliy Mikhaylovich Golitsyn’s account of a reorganized KGB.
Only Robert Redford could kidnap a woman at gunpoint only to have her make mellow sax love to him later…
p.s. The notion of a CIA killing off its own employees must have been antithetical to the actual experiences of the bureaucrats who filled the desks despite being readily accepted by audiences for the next 40 years. Ironically, the portrayal of the CIA indiscriminately reading and absorbing books, journals, articles, letters, etc. from all around the world would not be fiction either then or now although it probably would have seemed silly to a 70’s audience.
To recap, the lay person would have found it more believable that a working group in the CIA could be ruthlessly murdered by its management compared to the idea that those same people would spend their days photocopying books.