4.0, Europe

The Day of the Jackal

1973 / Fred Zinnemann > Off-hand, I can’t recall a better dissection of how an assassin goes from taking a job to completing it, especially with a target as high-profile as the President of France. Every minor step is detailed but not in a way that bores. Zinnemann’s meticulousness pays off for the viewer who gets to enjoy a double-sided analysis of both the authorities hunting down The Jackal and how he himself constantly stays one step ahead. The dry, near-documentary style filmmaking may turn off some, but its beauty is in the way it lets us soak in the cat-and-mouse chase rather be forced to endure some in-your-face entertainment. But that may be underestimating the subtle character study of The Jackal himself, played so wonderfully by Edward Fox. Is he good or bad? Similar to Shohei Imamura’s take on a serial killer in Vengeance is Mine, the answers are far from obvious.