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The Day Of The JackalUK/France 1973
Directed by Fred Zinnemann
Running time 141 minutes
Although a hit in its day Fred Zinnemann’s adaptation of Frederick Forsyth's best-seller about an attempted assassination of President Charles De Gaulle by the OAS, a group of disgruntled former army officers who felt that the General had betrayed France by giving Algiers its independence, The Day of The Jackal is rather underwhelming by modern standards
For a start, the fact that the cast is almost entirely made up of British character actors who make absolutely no attempt to lose their BBC accents give the film a rather hollow follow feel. Then the detailed account of how the hired killer (Edward Fox), code named The Jackal prepares for the job is too protracted with lots of appealing but dramatically distracting exteriors of Paris, London, Rome and so on. The second half of the film, which is given over to the cat-and-mouse game between French Inspector Lebel (Michael Lonsdale) and The Jackal is more dutiful than suspenseful, the whole being quite engaging conceptually but too impassively executed to get pulses racing as this kind of thing should.
Edward Fox, in what was the most memorable role in a career devoted to playing English public school chaps of one kind or another, is surprisingly effective in the lead and it is only late in the film when it emerges that The Jackal is some kind of well-dressed psychopath (the film never offers any psychological profiling) that we lose sympathy for him. On the side of the good guys, Lonsdale’s Lebel is really too stodgy to provide a counterweight to The Jackal's coolly ruthless charm.
It is not clear what was the need for a sub-plot involving Delphine Seyrig and after such a slow and methodical unfolding the film's ending is glibly abrupt, leaving us feeling cheated. Thirty minutes chopped out of the story and five to ten minutes devoted to a proper ending would have helped greatly.
FYI: In a nice bit of casting the OAS gopher, Wolenski, is played by Jean Martin who played the leader of the French occupying force in Gillo Pontecorvo's classic docu-drama The Battle of Algiers (1966).
Available from: Shock Entertainment