Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Day Of the Jackal

The Day Of The Jackal is a 1973 adaptation of a book with the same name by Frederick Forsyth. I read it long ago but never watched the film until recently. The story takes place in France in 1963 and is partly based on real events as it shows the struggle between OAS and General De Gaulle.

OAS was a French secret paramilitary organisation created during the Algerian war of 1954-1962 whose aim was to keep Algeria French. They used what could be described as terrorist tactics committing political assassinations and sabotage and made several attempts to assassinate De Gaulle, though unsuccessfully. The organisation was ruthlessly suppressed by the French government, with some of the leaders executed, while others were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, only to be amnestied later.

The film starts by showing the most famous  attempt on De Gaulle's life planned and organised by Jean Bastien-Thiry and the execution of the latter, which are both historical facts, but then wanders off in the direction of fiction as it shows how the demoralised leaders of OAS living in exile come to the conclusion that the only thing which is left for them to do is to hire a professional killer.

Since that moment the story centers around a blond Englishman who is only known under the name Jackal and the attempts of French secret police to find and eliminate him. Both parties are shown as sufficiently ruthless, with French government being not above using torture and extrajudicial killings which sometimes makes one wonder if they are really good guys.

Since it was made in 1973, the film is actually relatively bloodless compared to the modern productions of the same genre, nevertheless it keeps one in suspense until the very end (though we all know, of course, how it will end). It shows Paris still looking like a European city, with people wearing decent clothes, women being feminine and no one is overweight!

On the negative side, they shouldn't have chosen such a cute guy for the lead. It makes one sympathise with him, and of course, we all know it's immoral to sympathise with a murderer...

The film is not on YouTube, but you can probably find it on Netflix. Below is the original theatrical trailer.

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