The Parallax View

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Don't write Warren Beatty off as that slightly-addled old man who often appears alongside his wife, Annette Bening, at awards shows. In his day, he was one of the most intense leading men of his generation: an actor, director and producer of significant intelligence and depth. His back catalogue includes some outstanding work, not least of which is this genuinely shocking political thriller.

Hard drinking journalist Joe Frady (Beatty) is a witness to the assassination of a Californian senator, which is officially decreed to have been the work of a lone gunman. When, a couple of years later, a TV news colleague and former girlfriend, Lee (Paula Prentiss), comes to him with a conspiracy theory, pointing out that the other witnesses to the event are being picked off one-by-one, he doesn't believe her. The deaths, he reasons, are coincidental and not unexpected: a notorious drinker dying in a car crash, a hrad-living journalist dying of a heart attack, etc. But when Prentiss herself turns up dead, he begins to investigate, despite the warnings of his boss (Cronyn).

The parallels with the assassination of JFK are obvious here. The Commission which decrees the assassination to have been the work of a lone gunman is instantly recognisable as the Warren Commission, which investigated the November 1963 murders in Dallas. And the truth that Beatty begins to uncover all too vividly - that there is a shadowy governmental agency which hires political assassins through the shady Parallax Corporation - again taps into the myth surrounding Kennedy.

Given that the film was made in 1974, the contempt of all things political that was generated by the Watergate scandal also hangs heavy over the production. In fact, Watergate thriller All the President's Men is also the work of director Alan J. Pakula and there's a similarity in tone about the two films. Atmospheric and claustrophobic, it's a film which has aged surprisingly well, tapping into modern (particularly American) audiences' mistrust of government and intelligence agencies.

Beatty's slow, thoughtful delivery is perfect here, as each lead he chases down puts him - and those around him - in even greater danger than he understands. And anyone who's seen modern political thriller Arlington Road with Jeff Bridges will see the similarities between not only Beatty's and Bridges' characters, but also in the plot.

The action never flags from start to finish and comes full circle, ending, as it began, with a political assassination, but holding you gripped right the way through.

Buy it

Director:
Alan J. Pakula
Screenwriters:
David Giler, Lorenzo Semple Jr
Starring:
Warren Beatty, Hume Cronyn, Paula Prentiss, William Daniels
Release details:
Paramount, USA 1974, 1h 42m
Genre:
Political thriller
Our rating:
9 out of 10
User rating:

Rating: 9.50 [2 votes]

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