It is the early 60s in France. The remaining survivors of the aborted French Foreign Legion have made repeated attempts to kill DeGaulle. The result is that he is the most closely guarded man in the world. As a desperate act, they hire The Jackal, the code name for a hired killer who agrees to kill French President De Gaulle for half a million dollars. We watch his preparations which are so thorough we wonder how he could possibly fail even as we watch the French police attempt to pick up his trail. The situation is historically accurate. There were many such attempts and the film closely follows the plot of the book. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
The Liberation Day scenes were filmed at a real parade, with most spectators being unaware of a film being shot. This caused a bit of confusion: many of the crowd mistook the arrests being filmed for real ones, and attempted to assist. See more »
When the man on the motor scooter stops at the cafe in the first few minutes of the movie, we see an August 1964 calendar on the wall, but the movie is set in August 1963. See more »
August 1962 was a stormy time for France. Many people felt that President Charles de Gaulle had betrayed the country by giving independence to Algeria. Extremists, mostly from the Army, swore to kill him in revenge. They banded together in an underground movement, and called themselves the OAS.
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The Cross of Lorraine, a symbol General Charles de Gaulle used during his lifetime, appears at the beginning of the film. See more »
This movie turned up on TCM last night and I found it to be outstanding. The movie has a very handsome look with terrific shots of Paris and Italy. The lead actors, Edward Fox and Michael Lonsdale, are actors that are rarely seen by American audiences which I thought helped the viewer really get into the suspense of the film. This is unquestionably Edward Fox's most memorable performance.
The movie is extremely suspenseful even though the viewer knows that the Jackel will not be able to assassinate Charles de Gaulle. While there were several assassination attempts against de Gaulle, he survived them all, so you know the Jackel will fail. Even though you know that, it is fascinating to see the Jackel assemble his false identities, his weapon, his forged papers as he methodically and dispassionately goes about his trade as the world's finest assassin.
Michael Lonsdale is also outstanding as the premier French detective who is given carte blanche by the government to hunt down the Jackel by any means necessary. The movie is set in 1963 and so it is a bit jarring to listen to the cops talk about how they will be getting a copy of the Jackel's fake passport that evening as it is flown to them from Britain---how did they get along without faxes and computers? Given the tenor of our times with every sensible nation turning things upside down to find terrorists, it is interesting to see how authorities try to stop an assassin forty years ago.
Throughout the movie the Jackel remains an enigma. Other than getting a ton of money, we have no idea why he's an assassin. The Jackel also takes some extraordinary risks---taking time to seduce a Frenchwoman while he knows the cops are hot on his trail and then going back to her only to murder her after she reveals to him that the cops have already approached her about him.
Then, even though he has half the fee already in the bank, the Jackel continues on with the assignment even though he could easily back out of it. Knowing that the police are searching every hotel in Paris, he brilliantly goes to ground by going to a gay bathhouse and spending the night at a man's apartment. Is the Jackel bisexual, gay or is he simply doing what is necessary to stay out of sight?
This is a terrific movie all around and very superior to more recent suspense movies.
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