An international assassin known as ‘The Jackal’ is employed by disgruntled French generals to kill President Charles de Gaulle, with a dedicated gendarme on the assassin’s trail.
Chacal. The Day of the Jackal is directed by Fred Zinnerman and adapted to screenplay by Kenneth Ross from the novel of the same name written by Frederick Forsyth. It stars Edward Fox, Michael Lonsdale, Terence Alexander, Michel Auclair, Alan Badel, Tony Britton and Denis Carey. Music is by Georges Delerue and cinematography by Jean Tournier. As the French political climate reaches boiling point over the Algeria situation, underground organisation the OAS plot to have President Charles de Gaulle assassinated. When an attempt fails the OAS members not caught are exiled in Vienna and decide that bringing in an outsider to kill the President is now the best way forward. That outsider is an Englishman, code name The Jackal, a methodically cunning and deadly assassin. Wonderful, the kind of character driven thriller that has become in short supply over the last couple of decades. It’s all so simple, even sedate, yet this calm approach serves the plotting perfectly. After the initial set ups we follow The Jackal (a super icy turn by Fox) on his mission to kill General de Gaul. His planning, the people he meets, and the people he has to kill to stay one step ahead of the authorities. From cons to weapon smuggling, to disguises and sexual encounters, it’s thoroughly compelling from Jackal’s story arc alone, but the frequent shifts to the hunt for him by a whole ream of suits and detectives is also gripping and suspenseful viewing. Backing Fox up is a raft quality performers, a cast very much in tune with the material to hand. Delure’s musical composition is purposely of the minimalist breed, Tournier’s photography is period compliant and smooth, while Ralph Kemplen’s excellent editing was rightly nominated for an Academy Award. Zinnerman does sterling work from the director’s chair, amazingly keeping a two and half hour movie free of extraneous scenes or pointless exposition. Everything is relative, it really is a film to stay focussed with, to give it respect by giving it your undivided attention. So go the bathroom before sitting down to view this truly great and smart thriller. 9/10