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Ella Connors is a single woman who gets pressured to sell her failing cattle farm to her corrupt ex suitor, Jacob Ewing. She asks for help from her neighbor, Frank Athearn. As Ella and ... See full summary »
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Alan J. Pakula
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Alan J. Pakula
Don Jaime de Mora y Aragón
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Alan J. Pakula
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Alan J. Pakula
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio,
An ambitious reporter gets in way-over-his-head trouble while investigating a senator's assassination which leads to a vast conspiracy involving a multinational corporation behind every event in the worlds headlines.
Alan J. Pakula
Ellen Gordon, a New York executive's mistress falls for the executive's young business associate when the young man is accidentally sent to use the apartment where the executive and his ... See full summary »
This is an unusual film: an adult thriller about the danger of fiscal manipulation. It's also unusual in that it remains relevant, perhaps even more so than when it was released; no less a person than renowned investor Warren Buffet has recently been warning of the dangers of having so much U.S. debt held by countries whose political agendas may not always require a stable or strong U.S. economy.
But is it a good film? With some reservations, I would argue that it is. Director Alan Pakula and cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno have done a very good job of shadowing the action; rarely does anything take place in strong light, and then almost always when the action either involves the Saudis (the first meeting between the cartel and Lee Winters, played by Jane Fonda, for example) or serves their interests (e.g. the death of bank inspector Mr. Fewster). The locations, large and small, take on their own lives; the World Trade Center becomes a monolithic anthill, and there is a wonderfully ominous shot of the arrangement for Lee Winters's death being made by two men amid a crowd on a descending escalator which captures powerfully the essential isolation of the individual amid the crowds, and thus wordlessly encapsulates the underlying political concern of the film. The 720 degree pan just before the film's ambiguous coda is a marvel, one of those things which looks quite simple until one realizes the amount of work that must have gone into making it work smoothly.
The performances are solid if a bit uneven. Hume Cronyn as the amoral main banker is superb, and Macon McCalman does a fine job as Fewster, a man who has gone in far beyond his depth and knows it. Fonda and Kristofferson (playing Hub Smith) are at their respective bests when portraying the manipulative sides of the characters, and less convincing in the romantic scenes (which aren't very plausible to begin with). Fonda's bleak expression when she thinks she realizes that Hub is betraying her is striking, and her reaction to the attempt on her life is completely persuasive. Kris Kristofferson seems rather stolid at first, until we realize that he is portraying a man from whom virtually all emotional capability has been leached by his dedication to success in his career; significantly, the most passionate sex scene takes place immediately after the success of a fiscal gamble of enormous proportions.
The screenplay handles the difficult task of dramatizing monetary transactions well; it is less effective when portraying the love scenes, especially the initial motivation for the central affair. But the climactic confrontation between Hume Cronyn and Kris Kristofferson is spot on; rarely does a character reveal moral bankruptcy as starkly as does Cronyn's, yet his words and his delivery both demonstrate his utter unawareness of the truth about himself. Indeed, the script generally manages to be both clear (albeit complex, requiring attention) and straightforward without becoming preachy or overly didactic.
The music is easily the weakest part of the film (in fact, I almost gave this a 7 based on the music alone). The opening credits are backed by one of the most insipid things I've heard in a long time, a ditzy little number that recurs regularly to no good effect, and the love music (intentionally?) conveys little of passion or even intense feeling. The music for menacing scenes has more character, but appears only intermittently, and not always when it's most needed. This score has dated badly, and undercuts the film's impact considerably.
But all things considered, I still enjoyed this, and recommend it to those looking for something offbeat (and, like Pakula's "All the President's Men", somewhat deliberately paced, though I find this one slightly better overall). It's a rare film in that it almost always treats its viewers as adults capable of giving it a fair chance, yet it is structured, and often plays, like a traditional mystery thriller. But the plot is not all here; the film's unspoken message is worth hearing, and heeding, as well: that when we allow the possession and manipulation of things to take precedence over human needs, we run the risk of becoming nothing but things ourselves.
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