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The opening five minutes of the film are a marvel. Almost completely devoid
of dialogue the scenes portray visually more story than most modern
thrillers can fit into two hours. This is about the best book-to-film
conversion I've ever seen. The cuts, where they are made, are logical and
some locations are combined. From Forsyth's first, and probably best book
(written in less than 5 weeks) this film contains nothing that does not
drive the story forward. The character of the Jackal is brilliantly finely
drawn. He doesn't contain any of the cliches that you would expect to see in
a film written in the last twenty years (he doesn't display mental
instability, or have flashbacks to some event in his past). He never tries
to justify his pernicious occupation to anyone yet, strangely, doesn't come
across as an evil man. Simply as a professional doing his job. The French
police inspector is wonderfully underplayed and is as far away from the
he-breaks-the-rules-but-he-gets-the-job-done cliche as you can possibly
imagine. He is first seen attending to his pigeons and upon being told he is
being put on the case simply says "Oh God..."....
Zimmemann's direction is great and the scenes are beautifully photographed - particularly in Paris.
This is an all-time great film. Definitely in my top ten. I suppose I must put something in negative so it makes for a balanced review so errr.... I think the French minister is wearing a very bad wig. Beyond that -marvelous.
Many films of recent years have had the potential to live on and become "classics," but all too often the 'Hollywood formula' for success makes them obsolete in a few short years. Having seen the 1997 remake, I was reluctant to watch the original, released in 1973. But I am certainly glad that I did. I would probably rate the original version a 9 had I not seen the newer one but I couldn't resist comparing the 2 and ultimately giving it a 10. It's historical accuracy might leave you wondering whether it is a true story or not because all of the characters are genuine and believable. It is intriguing, clever and offers a bit of suspense, all in the absence of romantic departures, gratuitous sex and unexplained violence. It's a well-researched, well-written story that was expertly adapted to film.
This is just a masterpiece. It is probably the prime example of how the film industry did such a better job with movies of this genre 30 and 40 years ago. I was comparing and contrasting this with the original "The Manchurian Candidate," both films dealing with assassination, but taking totally different paths -- one with a brainwashed assassin, the other with a coolly professional one. But in comparing this film with more-modern films -- including the remake of this one -- it's amazing how everyone involved 30 or 40 years ago used dialog, character development, fantastic cinematography and other such tools to craft an incredibly complex and tense work. You might have trouble remembering one actor from this film, but you can't forget their characterizations. Nowadays, it's nothing but special effects. Everyone got a lot more for their money in the era when this film was made.
Easily one of my favorites, if not THE favorite. The cinematography is excellent, and has so many shots that seem to be done with long range or hidden cameras. This style makes the film seem so real! There is a scene in a market where the Jackal is shopping for disguises, and he (the actor Edward Fox), bumps into a woman shopping without turning to look or acknowledge her, that seems absolutely REAL. I don't know, but if I had to guess I would say that the camera was hidden and that she was not an actor, but a French woman out shopping. I would like to know more about the use of the public as 'extras' in this film. The story is excellent, and the implied menace of the classy Jackal is really excellent. 10/10!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Some movies just ooze with class and "The day of the Jackal" is an
example of such a film. It's one of those movies that you never seem to
get bored watching. Even if you know what's going to happen and the the
thrill and tension is taken out, it's still a fascinating watch. The
documentary style format and no music score (which is so important in
many movies) does not in any way detract from the atmosphere that is
created by Zinnerman.
The casting of Edward Fox was a crucial decision because he was believable as the Jackal who effortlessly portrays himself as very thorough, cool, methodical, professional assassin who is never flustered. Yet he is also a ruthless cold blooded killer who has no problem disposing with anybody who appears to get in his way, might compromise his cover or is simply just in the wrong place at the wrong time - - - you see it's nothing personal! From the slimy forger right up to the French police officer at the end I counted five murders ( I'm presuming the old woman he karate chopped at the end was killed).
In addition he does not appear threatening nor intimidating to anybody, he just blends and does not draw attention to himself.This would explain why he is able to take people into is confidence. (unlike Bruce Willis who has assassin written all over his face in the 1997 version). The Jackal looks relaxed and classy as Caltrop, an irritated tourist as Duggan, a nervous limp wrist-ed school teacher from Denmark and a very tired WWW I cripple. All of them are believable characters which he plays during the film and none of them look like assassins.
The movie moves at a good pace and in all honesty defies it's two and half hour status, the atmosphere is created by the back ground noise of the environment not the music score and of course that changes from England, France and Italy which of course provides great cinematography throughout the movie.The support cast are also very good in their respective roles but particular praise has to go to the Jackals arch nemesis Lebel played by Michael Lonsdale ( who was Drax in the Bond Movie Moonraker) who despite some near misses and some gut wrenching setbacks eventually corners the Jackal. He is not fooled by a war veteran who appears to be a cripple.
This is an interesting point because what the movie does well is show how difficult it was for a lone assassin to elude various agencies and law enforcement authorities from interpol when the word is out to apprehend him. This would be particularly prevalent in post WWW II France and continental Europe where identity papers are compulsory and the power of the state far more intrusive than in other countries. Today with Email, cell phones, internet, satellite surveillance and CCTV cameras which are everywhere today it would make the work of the jackal that much harder to pull off.
The Jackal had a chance to bail out when the mission was compromised but decided to push on despite knowing that the odds were increasingly being stacked against him. ( In theory he did pull it off, if he had not been careless with his shot on DeGaulle, although he would not have got away). Lastly, the ending had a nice touch , the viewer did not know who the Jackal was, he was not Caltrop, the irate flat owner at the end, he certainly was not Duggan we knew that where did he come from? He was laid to rest in an unmarked paupers grave. A mystery for the viewer at the end!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With the growing impatience of the modern film-goer, it's no wonder
people can't watch this film today. It's long. There's no music. People
don't talk enough. The violence isn't bloody. The photography is very
boring. The ending sucked. These were just a few of the complaints that
I received upon screening this to about 50 high school students at a
recent film club meeting. It was my week to show a movie, and I
wondered how people might respond to this. Well, we started with 50,
and by the end, there were about 7 kids left. Allow me to explain.
This film, has a very specific look and feel for its time. Set in the early sixties, we follow a fictionalized account of an assassination attempt on the life of Charles De Gaul. The OAR, a conservative underground movement angry about De Gaul's ending of the war in Algeria, decides they must take back power. Ultimately, almost all of their attempts have failed, so in desperation, the OAS decides to hire an outside assassin to eliminate De Gaul. At the time, this scared viewers, the thought of controlling and altering government, through illegal action. In a way, it's comparable to Grisham's Runaway Jury, in the sense that the law has few boundaries when change is wanted. The OAS hires the Jackal, played with dry cool by Edward Fox, an amazing underground assassin, with a reputation preceding him, even if he isn't supposed to exist.
Now, in accordance with the IMDb's rules concerning spoilers and revealing the ending, I won't divulge much in the ways of plot, but I must say, this is an excellently crafted piece of political thriller. From the novel by Frederick Forsyth, and scripted by Kenneth Ross, the script merely acts as a smart guideline for the action. Fred Zinnemann, directing his first film in several years, observes the actions of The Jackal and the French Secret Service's attempts to capture the Jackal with a carefully detached eye. He pays close attention to detail, much like the Jackal, leaving little room for error. Several people complained that the direction was boring, but really, it's very smart in its simplicity. Zinnemann allows for his actors and action to play out in very realistic manner, giving the film an engaging sense of time, making its viewers engaged in what's happening. The straight, no nonsense photography and lack of music add to that feel, giving this film much more credibility. Oh, and the settings utilized incredibly well too. The only noticeable style in this film is the editing, in its creation of clever transitions, like cutting shots, while using the previous soundtrack. Michael Lonsdale plays the head detective for the French Secret Service with collected calm. Highly aware and patient, he creates a smart and understated hero for the film. Meanwhile, on the other side of the political scandal, we have Edward Fox's Jackal, a super cool, highly resourceful, and highly aware individual. He too, practices the art of patience, and at any set- back, he's able to resourcefully able to work his out of it. But, don't try to negotiate with Mr. Jackal, because if he must come to it, he has no qualms about hurting someone in order to protect himself. A very amoral, if not fascinating anti-hero for this film.
The film was released in July of 1973, as an action thriller for Universal, labeled as dime a dozen action flick by publications such as the New York Times. Yet its gained longevity because of it's it tight plotting, nuanced performances, realistic action, and dark and unusual humor, this film will live far beyond its years. This film transcends the typical Hollywood action genre by being smarter than the average thriller, and by patiently waiting for the Jackal's next move, it's hard not to finish this movie. Some might speak of Michael Caton-Jones 1997 remake favorably, but the only reason people may think it's any good at all is because of impaired judgment from excessive repeat viewings on USA network... But seriously, while the remake is violent, stylized, and dull, the original is engaging, smart, and thoughtful. My only complaint is the ending's similarities to the original Manchurian Candidate's finale. But even so, this film has a satisfying conclusion.
To those who think that is long and boring, try sitting through this with an open mind. Unfortunately, modern audiences have tricked into thinking that good film-making consists if gritty realistic violence like Gladiator, or irritatingly hyperactive style and pace like The Matrix. This is film of great substance and intrigue. I'm 18 and in high school, and even I was willing to give this a chance, and it's one of my favorite films because of that. It's movie making in the true sense of the word, because it shows you a story. So please, forget about your MTV or Jerry Bruckheimer produced material, and try something thoughtful and interesting. This may be long by today's standards, but it's well worth the wait in the end.
-Blake Goble, film watcher, maker, and addict
From start to finish, this is one stylish espionage thriller that qualifies
among the best of its genre. Handsomely photographed in some colorful
European locations and impressively acted by the entire cast, it showcases
EDWARD FOX as "The Jackal" in a performance of smooth villainy that is
convincing all the way.
The film's final thirty minutes are worth waiting for--as is The Jackal's final disguise that convinces the French authorities to let him pass. Fred Zinnemann keeps it all moving at a steady pace and there's never any letdown in suspense since the film has the power to draw you in from the start.
Based on Frederick Forsyth's best-seller about the painful preparations an assassin makes in an attempt to take the life of Charles DeGaulle, it belongs in the same class with a film like THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR, almost documentary in approach.
The British cast is excellent with Michael Lonsdale doing an outstanding job as the relentless detective. Highly recommended.
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
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.
... How am I supposed to review a thriller I liked a lot ? It's much
easier to write comments on a thriller I disliked , a good example
being that really crap movie with Bruce Willis hired by the Russian
mafia and IRA man Richard Gere trying to stop him . I think you know
the movie I'm talking about
Frederick Forsyth writes thrillers that not only entertain you but educate you too and Kenneth Ross has written a screenplay that reflects this type of writing . The characters aren't cyphers created just to push the plot along , you can really believe these policemen have been solving cases for years ( notice how the policemen are either dowdy or gruff or both . Very realistic ) while you just know " The Jackal " is the world's most effective hit-man . Director Fred Zimmerman films the movie the best way possible - As a docudrama . Okay it might be a little slow and European to some tastes thirty years after it was filmed but compare it to the aforementioned remake and tell me what ones more nailbiting and compelling ? No contest is it
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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