Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Day of the Jackal

The Day of the Jackal; Thriller, UK/ France, 1973; D: Fred Zinnemann, S: Edward Fox, Michael Lonsdale, Cyril Cusack, Delphine Seyrig

In '63, French president Charles de Gaulle gave Algeria independence from France. Patriotic Frenchmen consider him a traitor, but an assassination attempt fails. Organisation OAS hires the expert killer called the Jackal to eliminate de Gaulle once and for all. The Jackal gets his weapon and false documents and travels to Paris, but the authoritites discover the threat from OAS members and secretly hire Commissioner Lebel and Caron to stop the assassination. The Jackal takes a room in a hotel, seduces a woman only to kill her and take her car. Lebel and Caron discover he might be an Englishmen and that a traitor may be in the government. The Jackal takes the identification papers from a Danish teacher, settles in an apartment and dressed as a disabled man tries to shoot, but the police finds and kills him.

Frequent viewing of this excellent thriller shows that even old crime stories can intruige the modern audience. "The Day of the Jackal" was director Fred Zinnemann's 43rd film, yet he once again made a mature, focused and skillful job so that everything is filled with details: in order to get a certificate of domicile the Jackal uses the name of a deceased cititzen which he spotted on a random tomb in a graveyard; he adjusts the aim on the gun; he misses the target just becuase de Gaulle accidentally ducked. Maybe it is slightly bothersome that the killer is the main protagonist and not the Comissioner, as well that the tone of the movie is cold, yet it's suspensful and intelligent non the less. The '97 remake starring Willis and Gere is "cool", but weak. The film was nominated for 3 Golden Globes (best motion picture - drama, director, screenplay) and 7 BAFTA awards (including best film, director and screenplay) out which it won one for best editing.


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