A building in New York City has a sign out front that says American Literary Historical Society. This nondescript building actually houses a branch of the CIA devoted to examining books, newspapers, magazines and periodicals looking for codes, leaks, ideas and hidden messages. Joe Turner (Robert Redford) is a bookworm CIA agent that works at the facility. His job is to read. Anything he finds suspicious he reports to his bosses. His latest inquiry is about a thriller style novel that includes some strange plot devices and was translated into various languages. This last element seems strange to Turner since the book didn’t sell very well so why translate it into some unusual languages.
Turner’s day goes on as usual. At lunch time it is raining so he ducks out the back way to the delicatessen. It is his turn to pick up lunch for everyone. When he leaves the restaurant, the rain has stopped so he takes his normal route back. When he gets to the office, he finds the front door is ajar. Inside he finds everyone dead. Six people in the office have been shot. In a panic he runs to a phone booth and calls his superior, Higgins (Cliff Robertson). He tells the CIA his code name, Condor. Higgins make arrangements for him to come in. He is to meet a man named Wicks (Michael Kane). They enlist a friend of his, Sam Barber (Walter McGinn) to meet him in an alley. At the alley Wicks kills Sam and tries to kill Turner.
Now in a panic Turner kidnaps a young woman, Kathy Hale (FayeDunaway). He holds her hostage in her apartment while trying to figure out why his entire team was murdered. He manages to convince Kathy to help him. Now, not trusting anyone at the CIA Turner tries to piece together what happened. A hit man, Joubert (Max von Sydow), finds out where Turner is. He sends another hit man who is disguised as a mailman (Hank Garrett) to kill him. Turner manages to kill the mailman. Now he and Kathy are on the run and trying to find out whom in the CIA wants him dead and why.
“3 Days of the Condor” was released in 1975 and was directed by Sydney Pollack. It is a spy thriller. The film is loosely based on the 1974 novel “Six Days of the Condor” by James Grady. Former CIA director Richard Helms was a consultant on the film, specifically for Redford’s role as Turner.
The plot is a little confusing and the reason everyone at the Literary Historical Society was killed is a bit of a MacGuffin. The focus is not on the conspiracy but on how Turner manages to stay alive while trying to put the jigsaw puzzle together. The movie may be confusing, but it has plenty of action as well as Robert Redford in his prime. The plot doesn’t interfere with the excitement of the film or the enjoyment.
As for Turner, for a bookworm he seems to be very adept at avoiding being killed. He not only reads everything, but he also retains it and has the ability to put it to practical use.
Reportedly, after the book and movie were done, the Soviet Union assumed that the U.S. actually had facilities similar to the undercover CIA office that Redford’s character worked at so the KGB created their own. It is also reported that since they were successful, the CIA did too. The film is said to have inspired the plot for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” 2014.