Day of the Jackal/A-,B

Universal/1973/143m/WS 1.85

     The Day of the Jackal from the Frederick Forsyth novel is an outstanding thriller from director Fred Zinnemann. Set in the early 1960s during the reign of French President Charles DeGaulle, the political conflict between the government and the extreme right of the military has come to a head. A number of  assassination attempts on De Gaulle have failed. In desperation, the political outcasts hire a professional assassin to carry out the hit on De Gaulle. The film chronicles the methodical preparation by the meticulous Englishman  hired to kill French President Charles DeGaulle. Step by step the tension mounts as the jackal nears the moment of truth when one clean shot will complete the bargain for his financial freedom. Almost from the outset, French intelligence forces determine that something is in the works and with swift action, they kidnap an aide to the rebellious generals and pry from him only a kernel of the assassination possibility. The government calls in its best Parisian inspector to head up the hunt for the jackal. So we have procedure from both sides of the fence as the anonymous killer moves ahead of his pursuers moment by moment.

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DeGaulle in sight. ŠUniversal

     Zinnemann's cinematic timing and patience for detail is perfectly suited to the material. No element of The Day of the Jackal stands out or calls attention to itself, but the sum of its parts is precision art. The film is quite like the killer himself, professional, dispassionate, and totally focused.
     The mostly British and French cast are terrific in their anonymity, sacrificing the individuality to the whole of the vision. Edward Fox is the polished, mild mannered killer. For Fox, killing is simply a job. He's no more than an the counterpart of an efficient British civil servant, albeit with a taste for fine things. Do you think Zinnemann took special pleasure in casting a Fox as the jackal? As the   French inspector in charge of the hunt, Michael Lonsdale (A Bond villain alumnus as Drax in Moonraker.) matches Fox's methodology with Gaelic doggedness. The two protagonist's are careful never to inject more than necessary into their roles. Credit Zinnemann for beautiful control over the tone of all the actors. 
       Though 1.85 widescreen composition is somewhat grainy, colors, sharpness and contrast ratio are all very good. The mono soundtrack is clean with no hiss. The 143 minute film stands up to time well. Don't miss it!

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