The Day of the Jackal – 1973

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It was in my mid-twenties the first time I saw this movie. It left such an impression on me that I went out looking for the DVD. In life, the things we worry about differ from person to person. You for instance may worry about atonement for your sins in time for judgment day, or that diversified portfolio built over a lifetime tanking in todays’ economy. As for me, I worry about where they keep the originals of classic films. What if it gets incinerated? How then will I acquire these films at a reasonable price? How How How???? Hence why I hunt down these movies and buy-em 🙂

The Day of the Jackal is a crime drama released in 1973, its how I got interested in Fred Zinnemann. I went on to own two other films he directed: From Here to Eternity (1953) and A Man for All Seasons (1966). An attempt was made to recreate it in 1997 starring Richard Gere and Bruce Willis, but IMHO, that’s all it is, an attempt, nothing more. In fact, the only thing I remember from that version is the subway scene shot in Montreal, and that’s because I lived there at the time.

The screenplay is about an underground organization of French militants (The O.A.S) in opposition to the country’s leadership and determined to remove the President. After many failed attempts, they decide to employ the services of a foreign assassin, an Englishman with a reputation for high profile hits. He’s not interested in picking sides or validating political views, his only interest is in getting the job done for the right price. At their first meeting, he tells them his fee and refuses to bargain, take it or leave it. Astonished, they ask how he expects such an amount to be raised, and he jokingly tells them to rob a couple of banks. It turns out that’s exactly what they do to get the money.

Sidenote: Wouldn’t it be fun to reach a point in your career where you can negotiate like this. When a client sees your quote and exclaims….where am I supposed to get that kind of money? And you say something cheeky like…cash in some RSPs, get a second mortgage, or dip into the kids education fund, school’s overrated anyhow 🙂

After reaching terms, they agree his code name from that moment will be The Jackal. Meanwhile, French Intelligence is monitoring the activities of the O.A.S for all possible threats. They soon find out about the employment of a foreign assassin and put their best officer on the job to stop him. The O.A.S in turn plants a spy in the French camp, so they are able to warn The Jackal on what’s been found out about him or his plans. Consequently, he’s able to stay one step ahead of his pursuers. A greater part of the movie from here on is about The Jackal meticulously laying plans to take out The President, and French Intelligence using all their resources internally and otherwise to catch up with him.

Before I get wrapped up in the plot of any movie, its general look has to keep me interested. Otherwise I write it off subconsciously and eventually check out physically. I like everything about the feel of this movie on DVD, the cinematic look, film grain, and most especially its subtle color in an era when popping colors was the look. The Day of the Jackal is very nicely paced. All the times I’ve seen it, I never once felt the need to reach for the remote control to skip a chapter. When we watch movies, our minds constantly problem-solve, making connections that help us anticipate what happens next or how the story will end. This movie has a way stripping all that anticipation, so you simply follow with and enjoy the story as it unravels.

Gears change and things get more interesting when The Jackal finds out his cover is blown. He’s not boxed-in yet and has time to abandon the mission. He can disappear, keep the deposit paid to him and still maintain his reputation. But he decides to push through knowing the job just got ten times harder. It’s not the logical choice, but it’s the one he makes and by doing so, pulls us deeper into the story. In the end, we get a mix of closure and mystery surrounding his real identity. So even after the curtains fall; we leave knowing and not knowing his entire truth.

Edward Fox gives a world-class performance playing The Jackal. He’s truly a pleasure to watch breathing life into the character. He’s a cold killer, a mechanic, a painter, a gentleman and plumber with the ladies. In fact years from now when you think about this movie, the two people you’ll remember are him and Michael Lonsdale, playing Lebel – the Intelligence officer assigned to the case. Many of the cast may have passed on, but something undeniably eternal is this piece of art they’ve left us with. It’s hard to put into words the appreciation I feel watching these guys perform on such a high level. This is easily one of my favorite films, if you end up checking it out, hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

Conclusion:

Is this 143mins of my life I wish I could take back? Hell No.
Will I see it again? Yes, many times over.
Is it worth owning? Yes, I purchased the DVD.
What about the soundtrack? Adequate, not something I would buy separately though.
Should there be sequel? No.
Who will like this movie? Anyone who enjoys a good political drama.
Is it a Classic? Yes, yes and yes!