Thursday, June 30, 2016

Blind Spot: The Day of the Jackal (1973)

The Day of the Jackal is a masterful procedural.

Directed by Fred Zinnemann
Produced by John Woolf
Written by Kenneth Ross (screenplay); Frederick Forsyth (book)
Starring Edward Fox, Terence Alexander and Michael Lonsdale

Plot Summary: A nameless assassin (the Jackal) is hired to kill French president Charles de Gaulle.

Significance: Generally considered one of the best political thrillers ever made, the film received multiple BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture at both, respectively. It also received an Oscar nomination for Best Film Editing. In 1997, a loose remake called The Jackal was made starring Bruce Willis and Richard Gere.

Thoughts: This engrossing procedural is a first-rate political thriller, akin to classics like Army of Shadows and Three Days of the Condor. Like some incarnations of the genre, the film takes its time, but at nearly two and a half hours, it’s a riveting watch. It’s a well-crafted nail-biter that features a solid ensemble and (deservedly) Oscar-nominated work by editor Ralph Kemplen, who doesn’t let the film feel too bulky or convoluted. On the whole, the film is more about the sum of its parts, though director Fred Zinnemann and stars Edward Fox and Michael Lonsdale deserve praise for making it seem so easy. If you like ’70s thrillers, this somewhat undervalued classic is a must-see.

Rating: A

This is the sixth film in my 2016 Blind Spot Series, as first started by Ryan McNeil.


  1. In my top 25 of all-time. Yep, a nail-biter and well-told. Despite knowing where the story is going still thrilling on rewatch. The 1997 remake with Bruce Willis to me was a bit soulless.

    1. Love that it's an all-timer for you. I'm very close to bumping my A to an A+. I bought the remake years ago, but never watched it. I'll give it a look at some point, though.

  2. So glad to see that you liked this so much. I gets my vote as the best of its year and Fox would also be my choice for actor, there's a lot of levels to his performance.

    Zinneman's reputation should really be stronger than it is. He's well regarded but his direction was so consistently excellent throughout his career you'd think his name would be better remember today.

    1. It's in my top 5 of that year now (ahead of Papillon - need to update my ballot), and Fox might make my lineup.

      Zinnemann seems primarily associated with his Oscar successes, but this is easily one of his best films. Too bad it didn't get more recognition from the Academy.