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>
There are thirty-one individual insert shots of clocks in the movie. By contrast, High Noon (1952), also directed by Fred Zinnemann, and more directly concerned with the passage of time, contained only thirteen insert shots of clocks. See more »
(at around 1h) When the Jackal prepares to take his final shot at the melon in the forest, he is clearly shooting with the rifle on his right shoulder, but he views the sight with his left eye. No sniper could see reasonably through the sight with his opposite eye, which turns his head away from the intended line of fire. 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 closing credits roll over a lion statue at the Élysée Palace, the residence of the President of France. See more »
Much like the novel from which it was based on, The Day of the Jackal is a detailed, compelling and cold thriller. Frederick Forsyth has never been an author who imbues his characters with much humanity or depth; he is much more adept with presenting technical and political aspects in fine detail. This served him very well in the case of The Day of the Jackal, a novel that not only was detailed in these ways, but also was primarily about a cold calculated professional killer, whose lack of depth or real identity was actually a positive for the story. In other words this story was perfectly suited to Forsyth's style.
For those who don't know, the film is set in 1963 and is about a French right-wing political group who want president Chares de Gaulle assassinated because of his decision to grant Algeria independence. They hire a professional killer with no ties to them to carry out the difficult task.
Edward Fox plays the titular character with the requisite cold efficiency required. He is very much an anti-hero, as while he does murder some innocent people he is also the only figure in the film to really get behind. The French authorities are shown to not be slow to use brutal methods on their enemies themselves, while the two policemen assigned to the case are so lacking in charisma that it's just very hard to get behind them in their pursuit of the villain. If there is a fault with the film it must surely be that we as viewers are drawn to the Jackal and his against-all-odds mission - I think most people want him to succeed – and I'm not entirely sure this is what the film-makers actually intended.
The period detail and French locations are lovely, so cinematically this is a very attractive looking film. It's well-paced and direct with no wastage. We never get into the Jackal character's head ourselves as viewers, there is a definite distance and we don't always immediately know why he does certain things. This only adds to the compelling voyeurism of watching him on his deadly mission. Despite the genre, there is a definite restraint shown in the depictions of violence. It's often implied or shown just off-screen. The focus of the film is very much on the way in which the assassin navigates through his mission via different methods of subterfuge. The film could not be further away in style from the laughable 90's remake The Jackal, a film that seems to do everything in an opposite way.
The Day of the Jackal is overall an excellent political thriller that combines intelligence with a gripping narrative. It shows how this kind of material should be presented on screen, where less can absolutely be more. The way that it always stays within the realm of the plausible is one of its strongest suits too. All this combined with its enigmatic central villain make it a superlative film.
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