One of those films that makes an entry into most of the ‘top 100 film’s ever’ lists, ‘The Day of the Jackal’ from 1973 is set in 1963 and follows the plot of The Jackal who is hired to assassinate the French President Charles de Gaulle. It starts with a botched assassination attempt by a French terrorist group called the OAS who then go on to hire The Jackal and then it follows the story from both perspectives – the French and British authorities trying to spoil the plot getting equal screen time as the Jackal himself.
Looking at a film like this with a contemporary eye gives a few pros and a few cons. On the plus side, the events covered in the film are more distant and muddied by time (and naivety), which adds to the suspense and unknown for a thriller. On the minus side, the language of cinema has moved on a lot since 1973. The film still manages to build a fair amount of tension, but it all seems to lack a little excitement.
The plot (of the film) is an interesting one, but I found the script a little awkward and all of the performances the sort you’d expect to see on the theatre stage rather than the cinema screen. There aren’t any characters you root for really and you notice how society has changed with the characters for the two women in the cast. You also have to make a few assumptions during key scenes to bridge the limitations of the images.
All in all an fairly enjoyable and suspense-filled but rather damp and dated thriller.
3 on 5
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Written by: Frederick Forsyth (book), Kenneth Ross (screenplay)
Starring: Edward Fox, Michel Lonsdale
UK release: 1973