Robert Redford stars as Joseph Turner a "reader" for the CIA who finds himself on the run after everyone in his office is assassinated. Pollack wisely allows us to share in Turner's horror and confusion upon finding his dead co-workers. We witness his scramble for protection and his shaky call to the CIA Headquarters, as he demands to be brought in. The wheels start turning and it seems that all will be resolved, safely and quickly, but things don't go as planned. After a shoot out in an alley, Turner is seen as a possible rogue agent sending him into greater peril. Now everyone is out to get him. Only through quick, imaginative thinking and survival instincts can Turner stay ahead of those who are out to kill him.
In a moment of desperate improvisation, Turner kidnaps Faye Dunaway to elude his pursuers. This turn allows us to have someone else view Redford's character for us and provide a different intensity, a sexual intensity, to the film. Again, this is somewhat reminiscent of Cary Grant meeting Eva Marie Saint on the train in North by Northwest. But this story has more of an edge to it and Dunaway's character has greater depth and purpose than we imagine possible. She acquiesces to her captor's demands as she tries to understand him and learns quickly to appreciate him and the situation he's in.
Through Dunaway's help, Redford is allowed to meet up with the man (Cliff Robertson) who he believes is pulling the strings inside the CIA. The story turns more cerebral as we learn why Turner's office was hit and who was behind it. Furthermore, we understand how truly alone Redford's character really is. The audience is kept guessing through to the very end as to whether or not Redford's character will survive.
This is one movie that provides action and excitement coupled with a strong plot and solid characters. Max Von Sydow is excellent as a Joubert, a sophisticated, calculating, even-keeled assassin who is only doing what he is paid to do. Redford shines as a man whose entire world is thrown into violent disarray forcing him to fight for his survival. His ability to project his thoughts and concerns through his actions and facial expressions holds the audience to him.
While this movie does not have the overwhelming paranoid feel to it that a movie like The Parallax View had, it is stylish, convincing, and an intriguing movie. Sydney Pollack doesn't fill the scenes with deep shadows and hard camera angles, as some would do. Instead, most of this story takes place in broad daylight, which actually increases the tension. There's no easy place to hide, no dark doorways to duck into, no characters stepping out of the fog when we least expect it. Like Hitchcock, Pollack knows that exposing his hero to the light of day is to abandon him to his pursuers. The audience is pulled in right along with the Redford's character and we can't let go until we know we're safe.