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Mysterious assassin The Jackal (Edward Fox) makes elaborate plans to assassinate President Charles de Gaulle of France.

"Frederick Forsythe's cracking novel about an attempt to assassinate Charles de Gaulle was made into an equally cracking thriller by Fred Zinnemann almost 30 years ago and it stands up remarkably well today. Far better indeed than the tedious 1997 update The Jackal starring Bruce Willis.

Zinnemann's classy direction and a perfect performance by Edward Fox as the deadly professional hitman hired to knock off the French President make this almost epic-length thriller a gripping exercise from the outset. Remaining faithful to Forsythe's novel, the film presents an intricate web of political machinations, police procedurals and the gripping detail of a master killer marking out his prey.

Fox is brilliant as the impeccably dressed and spoken English gent hired by a reactionary group of military types holed up in Vienna who believe de Gaulle has betrayed his country. The asking price is a million dollars because "whoever does this job can never work again". The Jackal is good value for the price, as his meticulous preparation and disposal of anyone who might compromise his mission proves. The exciting details of the Jackal's steady progress to an apartment window in Paris, from where he'll have one shot at de Gaulle, is told in parallel with the police hunt that swings into action once dogged Parisian cop Lebel (Michel Lonsdale) starts putting the pieces together.

The dual structure is cleverly constructed (editor Ralph Kemplen received an Oscar nomination) to extract maximum tension from the cat and mouse scenario. Lonsdale's quiet determination and analytical probing of the mystery hitman's true identity serves as the perfect dramatic counterweight to the startling manouevres of a killer who is also at the top of his class. Beautifully shot in Technicolor by Jean Tournier and smoothly assembled by Zinnemann in one of his final outings in the director's chair, The Day Of The Jackal is a classy exercise in suspense-building even when there is so much information provided for the audience. It may lack firepower for audiences raised in the slam bang thriller era but the detail in the quieter moments are as riveting as any display of pyrotechnics. If you like thrillers in the mould of Ronin and Heat, make sure you give this Jackal your attention."
Richard Kuipers

Published May 31, 2001

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CAST: Edward Fox, Alan Badel, Tony Britton, Cyril Cusack, Michel Lonsdale

DIRECTOR: Fred Zinnemann

RUNNING TIME: 137 minutes

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Col Tristar Home Ent

DVD RELEASE: February 14, 2001

Original Theatrical Trailer; Production Notes; Language: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish; Subtitles: English, French, German, Greek, Polish, Czech, Turkish, Finnish, Dutch, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, English for the hearing impaired.

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