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USA 1974
Directed by
Alan J. Pakula
102 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Parallax View

The Parallax View is one of those films whose ending manages to pull together what up until then is a fairly ordinary experience. Speaking to the spate of US political assassinations that began with John Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 it opens with a clear reference to the Warren Commission and its much disputed finding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. From there we follow the escapades of Warren Beatty as he plays Joseph Frady, a bit of a loose cannon who works for a small newspaper as he tries to uncover the activities of a cloak and dagger group that behind its corporate veneer does dirty deeds for whoever will pay.

“Escapades” is the right word because Pakula tends to play the action thriller part of the equation strongly with Frady improbably handy with his fists and general ability to take down the baddies. All this is done in a so-so '70s manner and with certain now-dated aspects like the rudimentary technology and a rather naïve approach to psychological profiling and programming.

Where the film comes good is in the latter stages in which Frady finds himself ensnared in in a complicated ruse which leaves him as the fall guy in another assassination, the film closing as it opened with another commission finding that he acted alone. Whilst the film this gives a strong emotional backing to the speculations of the conspiratorially inclined as a political statement it shoots itself in the foot (so to speak), as it's all too simplistically convenient to carry weight in real life.

Just as John Frankenheimer’s 1962 conspiracy classic, The Manchurian Candidate, was remade by Jonathan Demme in 2004, this film deserves a revisit. Certainly there is more room available for improvement in terms of both plot and directorial panache.  

FYI: Two years later, Pakula proved much more adept with his Oscar-winning real life conspiracy drama, All The President's Men.




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