The Day of the Jackal (1973) Poster

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How did he miss?
Graham Watson13 November 2005
Warning: 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!
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One of the finest thrillers ever made
dgriffiths15 May 2001
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.
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billsav579 February 2004
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.
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Excellent, almost documentary quality
mattymatt3021 December 2003
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!
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Suspenseful, Wonderfully Straightforward Thriller
Hancock_the_Superb17 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
1963, France. French President Charles De Gaulle (Adrien Cayla-Legrand) has decided, after a popular referendum, to allow the North African nation of Algeria independence from France. This action leads to the death of hundreds of French residence in Algeria and bloody conflict which extends to Europe, as disgruntled French army officers form the OAS, a terrorist group which strives to assassinate De Gaulle. After a failed attempt on the President's life, the leaders of the OAS are tried and executed, and the organization is in tatters. The surviving leaders of the OAS hire a professional assassin (Edward Fox), codenamed the Jackal, to assassinate De Gaulle. Using a bewildering array of disguises, false passports, and other tricks, the Jackal works his way through Europe, being tracked by a frantic French bureaucracy led by milquetoast Police Commissioner Lebel (Michael Lonsdale). It's up to Lebel to find and stop the Jackal before August 25th, Liberation Day, when the assassin will make his move.

Based on the gripping if very long novel by Frederick Forsyth, Fred Zinneman's "Day of the Jackal" is one of the best of its genre. It succeeds largely because, as Roger Ebert said, "it knows exactly what it's talking about". Though fictional, the film's look and feel gives it an air of authenticity that few, if any, other thrillers could hope to match. The film has an almost documentary air about it, which is one of the major reasons it is so successful.

Much of the credit is due to director Fred Zinneman. Despite having a lengthy career making such classics as "High Noon", "From Here to Eternity", and "A Man for All Seasons", Zinneman is generally overlooked when it comes to great directors. Certainly, it's understandable why. Zinneman's films typically do not contain much in the way of flair or flash, at least when it comes to photography. Zinneman's direction is straightforward, unpretentious, with no fancy camera angles: he allows the script, sets, actors, and action on screen to do the work. This might not be the accomplished method of film making, but it works wonders in Zinneman's best films, particularly here. The lack of stylization creates the aforementioned feel that this story could happen in real life.

Other elements contribute to the film's success. The lengthy, in-depth, and almost labyrinthine source novel is reduced by screenwriter Kenneth Ross into succinct, economic dialog which conveys as much information with as little verbiage as possible. Georges Delerue's score functions much the same as his work in Zinneman's "A Man for All Seasons". There is little actual music, other than diegetic music from marching bands or street musicians, which adds immeasurably the look and feel of the movie.

What makes or breaks the film, however, is the cast, and this film is truly unique in its acting. The film recruits a huge, very talented cast of actors from both sides of the English Channel, and every performance is wonderfully understated, free of histrionics or theatricality, which makes the film all the more believable.

Edward Fox is marvelous in the title role. He plays the assassin as the ultimate detached professional; unconcerned about politics or individuals, he simply does his job and does it well. He can be counted on for results. He is neither arrogant nor cocky, just an expert who knows what he's doing and will go any length to achieve it. Fox is completely, utterly, and chillingly believable as the Jackal, and one is torn between rooting for him to succeed or for him to get caught.

Also fantastic is the Jackal's nemesis, Commissioner Lebel, who is played in an equally understated performance by Michael Lonsdale. Lebel is not an action hero, nor particularly exciting; he is a no-frills, straightforward police inspector who uses his brains, intuition, skill, and more than a bit of luck to track down the Jackal. Lonsdale and Fox give two of the most utterly believable performances ever captured on film, a testament to both actors.

The rest of the cast follows suit, although few of the other characters have as much screen time. Cyril Cusack plays the charming gunsmith who builds the Jackal's perfect weapon; Delphine Seyrig is a middle-aged Frenchwoman who begins an ill-advised affair with the assassin; Derek Jacobi is Lebel's dedicated assistant; Tony Britton as the crusty Scotland Yard investigator who gives Lebel his first break in the case; Jean Martin and Eric Porter play the desperate OAS members forced to hire an outsider to do their dirty work. These are just a few of the many fine performers in the film, and all give well-rounded, believable performances.

"The Day of the Jackal" is a brilliant thriller that still holds up well almost 35 years later. By capturing the essence of 1960's France, and by creating a completely believable atmosphere, Zinneman draws the viewer into the film. It is unlikely that the viewer will be able to lose interest as the plot moves along. A brilliant thriller, and a masterpiece for all time.

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Proof that creativity and 'Hollywood formulas' are at cross purposes.
devilinajeep19 February 2005
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.
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Good Things Come to Those Who Wait.
GoBlueB17 October 2004
Warning: 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
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Fine international crime thriller.
Robert J. Maxwell24 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Fred Zinneman, the director, has put out some pretty low brow stuff, like "High Noon," but it's all done with craftsmanship. This one is just about the opposite of "High Noon," a thriller in which not a moment is wasted. Everything that happens is relevant to the plot and concise. Not only is the movie built around direct cuts from one scene to another distant one, the cuts are made on actions, sometimes actions that are only half completed. You have to keep your eyes open. If you blink at the wrong time, for instance, you're liable to miss the way Edward Fox gets hold of Per Lindquist's Danish passport.

It's a battle of wits between the hired, cold-blooded assassin (Fox) who is out to kill Charles DeGaulle, and the team of French detectives and generals who are out to stop him. Fox eludes them with invention and foresight but detective in charge (Lonsdale) doggedly track him down. I don't suppose it's giving much away to reveal that Fox does not succeed in assassinating DeGaulle, since all interested parties must already know that DeGaulle died of a heart attack. (The headlines of the Philadelphia Examiner were unforgettable -- "DeGaulle Keels Over," later amended to "DeGaulle Drops Dead.") The movie spells out the details by which Fox acquires his different identities and how and why he changes them. If you don't know how to get a false passport, watch this and find out. There are a lot of characters in this movie and a lot of locations but not once are we confused about what's happening or why. It's a splendid script. The acting is professional all around. David Hardwicke is tucked away in a small part. Michael Lonsdale as the detective has the proper proletarian face and modest demeanor. Fox has the necessary Saville Row certainty. And what a life he leads! Driving around the Riviera and the Maritime Alps in his sporty Alfa Romeo convertible, lodging in the finest hotels, boffing the elegant but foolish Delphine Seyrig, earning a cool half million for one job -- and this in the days when the dollar was worth something, murdering anyone who gets in his way. The kind of life any normal person would give an arm and a leg to lead.

And it all goes down as smoothly as a draught of Pepto Bismol. There is only one brief exchange of gunfire at the end. There are no fist fights or assaults. Fox kills a couple of people in the course of his journey but they're all over quickly, sometimes off screen or in shadows. Nobody loses his or her temper. No one shouts at anyone else. The humor, and there ARE a few amusing moments, is subdued.

If I were teaching a class in film appreciation I would show Zinneman's version back to back with the more recent "The Jackal" with Richard Gere and Bruce Willis. The final exam would consist of one question. "Which did you prefer?" Then I would flunk everybody who chose the later version.

Bruce Willis changes his identity in a whimsical way. In every scene he seems to wear a different wig or something. Fox assumes only three false identities, an English tourist, a Danish schoolteacher, and a French veteran. And we understand precisely why he MUST change identities. Fox's murder weapon is a cleverly constructed .22 caliber rifle, a stark miniature. Willis's murder weapon is a gigantic cannon that looks capable of taking out a tank or maybe a battleship. Everything in the later film is both overblown and sloppy, a Gongoristic mess. Compared to the Willis/Gere film, Zinneman's "High Noon" was an exercise in sophistication. My God, what's happening to us?
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Ajtlawyer29 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
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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Exciting thriller with top-notch actors and excellent direction
ma-cortes30 August 2009
This is a good rendition of Frederick Forsyth's best seller based on real events, it deals about an intelligent English assassin (Edward Fox) who is assigned by OAS to assassinate General De Gaulle. OAS was a terrorist group formed by French vets of the War of Argelia and committing terrorist acts preferentially after its independence (Evian,1962). The Minister (Alan Badel) assigns the mission to locate Jackal , being appointed his best investigator named Lebel( Michael Lonsdale) and assisted by his helper (Derek Jacobi). The film develops the preparation of the assassination including identity forge, weapons purchase, among others.

This is an interesting thriller lavishly produced by John Woolf who after that he made ¨Odessa file¨ also by Frederick Forsyth. It's full of action, tense, high intrigue and is very entertaining. From the beginning to the end the tension and suspense is continued . In spite of the fact that the runtime is overlong, is neither tiring , nor dull , but thrilling . Cool performance by Edward Fox as elegant and cunning murderer. All star cast formed by prestigious secondary actors as French : Michael Lonsdale, Michel Auclair, Alan Badel, and British : Cryil Cusack, Maurice Denham, Eric Porter, Timothy West,Ronald Pickup, Donald Sinden and others uncredited, almost extras: Edward Hardwicke , Andrea Ferreol, Feodor Atkine and Howard Vernon. And marvelous secondary actresses as Olga Georges-Picot and Delphyne Seyrig and including some of nudism. Beautifully photographed by expert cameraman Jean Tourneir. Suspenseful and atmospheric musical score by George Delerue.

The motion picture is stunningly directed by Fred Zinnemann who had a lot of experience from his formers classic films as ¨High Noon, From here to eternity, Man for all seasons ¨, among them. Rating : Very Good , better than average. It was such fine movie that had a great success at the box office. It's remade in 1997 by Michael Caton-Jones with Richard Gere and Bruce Willis as Jackal but is inferior version and bears only slight resemblance to the original movie.
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Stylish espionage thriller...neat location photography...
Neil Doyle10 February 2004
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.
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" Except for the President, we are now the most powerful men in France "
thinker169117 July 2009
Frederick Forsyth is the imaginative author behind this suspenseful and riveting tale concerning the attempt on the life of the Former President of France, Charles de Gaulle. From first to last, the director has embed this dramatic film with the believability of actual fact. Years ago, during his tenure as President of the Republic of France, De Gaulle gave Algeria its Independence. French army veterans felt betrayed by him and the government decide to assassinate him. There were several attempts, all of which were either botched or failed miserably. Thus the basis for this movie. " The Day of the Jackal " is the story of a secret group of retired Agerian officers called the O.A.S. who promised to kill de Gaulle, opt to hire an expert assassin to carry out the deed. That man is an Englishman, Paul Duggan, (Edward Fox) who is given the code name 'The Jackal'. He is a professional marksman with a perfect record of assassinations around the world. Aware that OAS officers want de Gaulle dead, the French police put a 24 hour surveillance on them. They capture and torture one courier who reveals the new attempt and discover the contract killer is little more than a ghost. Nevertheless, they hire the best detective in all of France, Commissioner Claude Lebel (Michael Lonsdale) to discover the identify of the killer before he kills the president. Derek Jacobi plays Caron his assistant and both men have the impossible task of finding a nearly invisible man. While the police are informed of his task, they do not know much else and therefore allow the Jackal to find a perfect location for the deed. Once in place the assassin waits for his target, who is precisely on time and only a few seconds separates the two cops from their quarry. The entire film is well paced as is the storyline. The acting is superb and contains some well known actors like Cyril Cusack as The Gunsmith, Alan Badel, Tony Britton, Adrien Cayla-Legrand as The President and Maurice Denham as General Colbert. It is easy to recommend this film and the selection of Edward Fox was a stroke of genius. ****
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The original thriller
cinefacilities25 May 2007
The Day of the Jackal is a brilliant thriller and my all-time favorite movie. If you love this film as much as I do, you will probably agree that writing a comment to it is a responsibility in itself.

I do not simply want to shower The Day of the Jackel with praise as I personally can not find words befitting. I would not like to attempt analysing my favorite film because I admire so very much the natural way in which - in all simplicity - it allows a fascinating story to meander through screen time.

Allow me instead to advise anyone not yet familiar with this masterpiece, to watch it.

When you have seen The Day of the Jackal you will be - over time - rewarded with the most precious gift that only the best of movies can offer; a fond memory of cinematographic excellence combined with endless strands of story lines resonating in the mind.

The Day of the Jackal is unique in perfection through directness.
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A magnificent and skillful thriller.
mhasheider6 November 2002
Chilling yet on the ball at all times-type of a detective story and international mystery stirred up into a magnificent and skillful thriller.

The O.A.S., the French version of the I.R.A. are determined more than ever to take out the current president, General Charles De Gaulle, at any cost. And after the last attempt on DeGaulle went undone, an Englishman who is only known as the Jackal (Edward Fox) is hired to finish the job even though he wants to do it his way.

Once the word gets out, a noble Paris detective, Claude Lebel (Michael Lonsdale) is chosen by his superiors to apprehend the Jackal before he can pull off the assassination.

The movie is based on the novel written by Frederick Forsyth ("The Dogs of War", "The Fourth Protocol") and the adaption made by Kenneth Ross is remarkably accurate and retains mostly of the mind-numbing suspense.

Well-known director Fred Zinnenmen (the original "High Noon" and "From Here to Eternity") handles the film like a picture frame, keeping it clean and avoiding any of the typical Hollywood methods, especially the climax. If there another movie that could ever match or get close to the same level of ferocious intensity of this movie has. Wolfgang Peterson's "In The Line of Fire" with Clint Eastwood and John Malkovich seems to be the best exception and after that, I don't anyone has matched this movie.
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Now this is what a thriller should be like
matjusm3 July 2007
The Jackal (Edward Fox) is a professional hit-man who has been hired by a French terrorists/resistance (depending on your point of view) group to kill Charles De Gaulle. For a tidy sum of money The Jackal accepts the job.

This film has all the elements of what a good thriller should be like. The film is tense and the tension never goes away but that doesn't mean that things are rushed. I wouldn't call the film heart pounding but it certainly does hold your attention. The characters don't make any stupid or illogical decisions but everybody (both the Jackal and the police who are trying to get him) act professionally with every move having been calculated beforehand. We see how the killer prepares for his job, the intricate technical details of what go into such a thing. A very interesting thing to see instead of simply rushing past those things to focus mainly on action scenes.

Edward Fox makes for a great Jackal. He is a focused professional who always knows what he is doing. The French police somehow find out that an attempt will be made on De Gaulle's life so they begin a desperate search for the culprit.

Director Fred Zimmerman is the man who brings all these elements together and weaves them into a solid film that holds up to this day. This film is far superior to the 1997 remake with Bruce Willis.

Recommended if you want a good escapist thriller with which to escape from the world for a few hours.
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The original and always the best
rh8618 January 2007
Back in August 1962, France faced a major crisis as army members, opposed to the decision by De Gaulle to grant Independence to Algeria banded together into the OAS and sought to kill De Gaulle. Following their failed attempt in the Paris Suburb of Petit Clamart (very faithfully recreated in the film) this film asks the question, what if the OAS tried again with a professional assassin? Casting Edward Fox as the assassin, codenamed Jackal is probably one of the best decision in film history. He doesn't look dangerous and even for someone like me who abhors guns and violence, it's hard not to admire his coolness and professionalism. The film turns into a deadly game of cat and mouse when the French authorities learn of the plot but not wanting to create a panic, only one man, Comissioner Lebel (Michael Lonsdale) is given permission to find him. Lebel in many ways is similar to the Jackal, he doesn't look like your average cop but he is incredibly professional and diligent.

The film sticks faithfully to the early 1960s and is shot very stylishly, going to the real locations from Genoa, the French Rivieria and Paris. Zinneman's direction is also very precise, everything you see on screen has a meaning, nothing is superfluous and although it's fairly long, the film builds gradually to a climax rather than jumping in.

Please don't even consider the terrible 1997 remake, stick with the original and enjoy
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Iconic assassination thriller spawning faux-doc aesthetic
Framescourer16 November 2009
An echt-1973 movie. There are plenty of them in this year; films which seem to belch belligerent independence from the screen. From an virtual unknown in the title role and unmodulated (if implicit) scenes of homosexuality, to daring to run for over 2 hours largely without music, this is another exhilarating winner from this richest of movie years.

I think what I like most about the film is its pace. The economy with which Zinneman tells the story is stripped right down. There is no patronising voice-over or script-embedded exposition. Consequently, those moments where we're not entirely sure what's happening act as moments of suspense, not so much twists as notches in the grain of the plot. It's a wonderful, organic piece of thriller-narrative film-making.

Edward Fox is as horribly calculating and driven as Zinneman could possibly have hoped, really compounding the cad of The Go-Between that hastened his casting. Michael Lonsdale's pursuing detective Lebel is brilliantly understated as his humble doppelganger. It amuses me to think what Lebel would have made of his extrovert contemporary Jimmy Doyle in the second French Connection film! The smattering of oh-so familiar British acting talent also invest the long list of tropes with real character - there is a super, unobtrusive sense of ennui, pride, professionalism and mordant humour even in the briefest of exchanges. No doubt the naturalism of location and non-acting extras rubbed off on the pros. I also feel inclined to mention the marvellous performance of Delphine Seyrig, managing function, beauty and pathos in her 2 1/2 short scenes as Madame de Montpellier.

For all that the cast understand the nature of the film and inhabit it so fluently, it's Zinneman's attention to all the detail that's so satisfying. There are more wonderful location views than in any Bond film but shot with a marvellous photographer's sense of their innate value - they are not presented for the viewer like trophies. I cannot imagine that Paul Greengrass, our contemporaneous master of shaky-cam action-thriller realism cannot have absorbed the well-executed 'verité' of this film as an early initiation of his own art. I also admire one or two of the stunts. Above all, I simply love the Liberation Day set piece which is almost symphonic in its editing construction, crescending masterfully into the long-awaiting climax of this fantastic film. 9/10
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Still relevant, riveting, and brilliant 35 years later...
GrigoryGirl9 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This has to be one of the best espionage/political thrillers ever made. I have seen this film many times, and it never gets old. Despite the fact that I know how it ends, how it progresses, it is always riveting, fascinating, brilliantly understated, brilliantly acted, and superbly directed.

The film hasn't really dated at all. Many of the events it depicts did in fact happen, and while the film itself is not based on an actual assassination attempt on Charles de Gaulle, the film is certainly plausible and the film has a documentary feel to it. De Gaulle did pull out of Algeria in 1962, infuriating the far right wing in France. The steps taken by the French detective (played wonderfully by Michel Lonsdale) are as meticulous as you would expect from a detective attempting to save the life of the president of his country. Today if a film like this was made (in fact, this was remade as an awful film in 1997 just called The Jackal), it would have been filled with smarmy wise cracks, girls with enormous breasts, lots of bloody, unmotivated violence, CGI everywhere, actors/actresses with Botox, political correctness toning down some ugly truths about humans, and it would have twice as many cuts. The film, directed by Fred Zinneman (A Man for All Seasons, High Noon, A Nun's Story), is beautifully paced and very subtly directed. It's one of his finest films, and one of the best thrillers of the 1970's.
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A race to save the life of the French President
George Wright10 April 2007
This is one of the most satisfying and beautifully-made films I have ever seen. Based on a best-selling novel by Frederick Forsyth, the movie depicts an assassination attempt on French President Charles De Gaulle in the early 1960's. Using live locations in Italy, France and England, the movie moves towards the climax with hardly a pause and much viewing pleasure along the way. The leading actor, Edward Fox, has appeared on BBC television shows and in supporting roles in other movies, but nowhere does he come close to this performance as the cold and meticulous killer. If you have not seen this film, watch it on TV or get the DVD. It will give you two and a half hours of the most entertaining cinema you will see.
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One of the finest thrillers made
ozthegreatat4233017 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This feature is one hell of a thrill ride as the mind of an assassin is pitted against the mind of a detective who is trying to stop him. Edward Fox as the Jackal and Michael Lonsdale as Claude Label are two of the very best performances on screen. This version is far superior to the later version with Bruce Willis. Especially when the object in the later version is strictly fictional and the victim in this version was a real historical figure. The direction was excellent and the cutting of the action is reminiscent of the films noir of an earlier period. This is not a film to be missed. If you see one political thriller this is the one to see. I give it two thumbs up.
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Stealth Man Among Us
Lechuguilla7 May 2005
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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I don't think I've ever heard of a political killer in this country. It's not our style, is it?
Ben Larson18 February 2012
You watch the Bruce Willis version of the Jackal and you think that is so cool, but you don't know cool until you see Edward Fox do it.

Fox is the epitome of cool. The guy even wears an ascot, for god's sake! Most people today don't even know what an ascot is. He carefully plots his moves and is methodical in his precision. He kills with cool detachment. If he had Willis' assignment, he would have gotten it done.

But, he had to deal with the European versions of the CIA/FBI and they were not restrained in how they handled investigations. With just a thread, the French police inspector carefully puts together a case with as much precision as his prey. It was a game of cat and mouse that kept you on the edge of your seat for two and a half hours without noticing the time.

That is because of director Fred Zinnemann and the fact that he kept things moving along beautifully.

If you want to see how a thriller is done with craft and cunning and without special effects, then this is the film for you.
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Coldly efficient like it's central character
Red-Barracuda22 November 2010
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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Oh Dear ...
Theo Robertson13 September 2004
... 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
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Single-Minded Thriller
dougdoepke20 February 2012
If there were an award for sheer single-mindedness, this film would win a lifetime- achievement. I don't think I've seen a movie more dedicated to following through on its premise. With near excruciating detail, the two and a-half hour narrative follows out a plot to assassinate French president Charles de Gaulle by disgruntled Algerian colonialists who hire a professional hit man known as the Jackal.

Now you might think 140-minutes would provide plenty of critical material to write about. But, in my little book, the sum-total doesn't. Instead, the screenplay consists entirely of following out the tactics of police pursuit and criminal evasion, producing results that are, nevertheless, riveting as heck. That's mainly because the screenplay shows the Jackal's painstaking preparation, though much is done in silence such that we don't know why he's doing what he's doing. We find out, however, as the chase unfolds and he puts those preparations into practice, allowing him to stay one-step ahead of the police pursuers. It amounts to an exquisite game of cat and mouse, and is about as well played as any thriller I've seen. But you have to stay alert since the Jackal operates mainly in silence.

If there's a downside, it's probably some seemingly pointless interludes where police functionaries walk along corridors to somewhere. I'm guessing these were included to give us a taste of the richly ornate interiors of high government offices since the walking itself doesn't advance the single-minded plot. Still, these scenes, along with the many sunny outdoor shots, do lend an eye-catching background to all the maneuvering.

Anyway, between the expert screenplay, fine acting, and colorful European locales, the movie is richly deserving of its first-rate reputation.
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