Following the suicide of an elderly Jewish man, a journalist in possession of the man's diary investigates the alleged sighting of a former SS captain, who allegedly commanded a concentration camp during WWII.
John Preston is a British agent with the task of preventing the Russians detonating a nuclear explosion next to an American base in the UK. The Russians are hoping this will shatter the 'special relationship' between the two countries.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Though the film was not a box office success, it received generally excellent reviews and made Edward Fox much in demand in films and on television. See more »
(at around 2 mins) As the ministers are leaving the palace in the early part of the film, the OAS operative on the scooter looks at a large clock on a nearby building which reads a quarter to eight (presumably in the evening). All of the subsequent shots are at times when the sun is high in the sky - the shadows are all too short to be in the evening, or early morning. 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 is not a true story. It is a fictional account of what could, in theory, have happened following the August 22, 1962, real life assassination attempt by the OAS terrorist group, on the life of French President Charles De Gaulle. In the film, the OAS tries again, this time using a simpler plan, one involving a lone gunman, a professional killer who calls himself ... the jackal (Edward Fox). The jackal is the archetype of the modern political sniper. The screenplay and Fox's performance present him as suave, sophisticated, intelligent, resourceful, and methodical. He is a risk taker. All of which makes him extremely dangerous, because he has no moral scruples.
We watch the jackal as he prepares meticulously for his assignment. As the clock ticks toward the moment of kill, the plot alternates between the jackal's daily logistics and the frantic efforts of Detective Lebel (Michael Lonsdale), hot on the jackal's trail, but always one step behind him. Kenneth Ross' efficient screenplay and Fred Zinnemann's expert direction create a film with steadily building suspense.
In lieu of unnecessary background music, sound effects engender a sense of realism and immediacy. The ticking of a clock, the sound of footsteps, or doors opening and closing, help to place the viewer in the scene, as a silent partner. The use of echoes further heightens the already elevated suspense. And adroit cinematography creates menacing visuals, characterized by dark backgrounds, creepy overhead lights, and noirish shadows. Augmenting all of this, the film's minimal dialogue, attention to detail in production design and costumes, the excellent acting, and the brilliant editing seal the film's deserved reputation as a film of unusually high technical quality. The overall result for the viewer is a truly suspenseful and realistic story not easily forgotten.
My only significant complaint is the film's strange climax. I personally found it to be elliptically counterintuitive. Notwithstanding this, "The Day Of The Jackal" deserves a very high recommendation for viewers wanting to see a political thriller along the lines of "Three Days Of The Condor" or "The Parallax View".
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