Customer Reviews: The Day of the Jackal
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on December 7, 2003
Rarely does a movie do justice to a book, but Fred Zinneman's production of "The Day of the Jackal" is wonderful adaptation of Frederick Forsyth's novel which, I continue to believe, is one of the greatest thrillers ever written.
It's hard to put a finger on what exactly makes this film great: excellent performances by relatively unknown actors, a wonderful plot, fantastic location shooting or a complete desire to avoid the bells and whistles, special effects laden movies that are all that makes up the "suspense" genre of films these days. Like other reviewers have said, be this the first or the fiftieth time that you watch this film, you will be left on the edge of your seat with its "cat and mouse" plot of the search for a lone assassin hired to murder President De Gaulle. The young Edward Fox is brilliant in the title role and the supporting cast excellent.
If anything, this film proves that you do not need big named stars, explosions around every corner or computer generated effects to make a fantastic film. The only downside to watching this film is that you realise that the movie industry just does not make films like this any more.
Highly, highly recommended.
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Years before the U.S.'s controversial involvement in South Viet Nam, France struggled and eventually failed to sustain its own involvement in Algeria. Many of its senior officers felt betrayed by their government. Efforts to assassinate President De Gaulle failed. Frederick Forsyth had this in mind when writing the novel on which this film is based. At substantial cost, an assassin known only as "The Jackal" is retained by dissidents to succeed where others had failed. There are two separate but related plots: one focuses on the assassin's meticulous preparations; the other on Inspector Lebel's equally thorough efforts to identify, locate, and capture him. Of special interest to me is director Fred Zinnemann's decision to tell the story (as does Forsyth) in a straightforward manner, without any special effects or gratuitous violence. He presents Lebel (Michael Lonsdale) and The Jackal (Edward Fox) as highly skilled professionals. Each fully understands what he must do and how to do it. True, both receive assistance from others along the way but they nonetheless remain in complete control until their ultimate confrontation.

Although some have referred to this film as a "political thriller," there is an almost total absence of politics within its narrative. Although his client has specified Charles DeGaulle, The Jackal would kill anyone for the right price. Moreover, there is absolutely no indication of Lebel having any political loyalties or even personal opinions. He is a public official doing his job, no matter who is in danger. For some, I guess, this film is a thriller. It certainly has a number of exciting moments but I, for one, never had any doubt that Lebel would eventually prevail. My interest is explained almost entirely by the seamless development of the two plots, each of which includes several especially well-portrayed incidents. For example, when Lebel confronts a high-level minister who has unknowingly provided The Jackal with privileged information and then later, when The Jackal penetrates security defenses to position himself so that he has a clear shot at his target. "Riveting" rather than "thrilling" summarizes my response to events throughout this crisp and cohesive film.
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Well, up front...I am an Edward Fox fan. Have been since he lumbered around in the 1966 FROZEN DEAD as Nazi Popcicle #3. Hey, he was one super fozen dead!! He had several good roles in next few years, but really stood out as Ian McShane's fellow flyer in THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN. They stole the show in a cast of super Brits - Lord Larry, Michael Caine, Ralph Richardson and Robert Shaw, just to name a few - firmly setting their star potential. But Edward really carved his chunk of attention for the role as the Jackal in the 1973 DAY OF THE JACKAL.
The film is a tight production, nearly boarding on documentary. Edward portrays the meticulous hitman of many disguises who has been hired to assassinate Charles de Gaulle. Based on the spy novel from Frederick Forsyth, director Fred Zinnermann focuses on the French detectives racing to track down the elusive Jackal before it's too late, and well as the dispassionate, professional preparations by Fox. But you are in two minds, actually. Fox is so winning in the performance, fleshing out the Jackal just not as a coldblooded killer, but as a man, so you oddly almost root for him to succeed, at the same time cheering for him to fail.
With the marvellous supporting cast of Derek Jacobi, Alan Badel, Maurice Denham, Cyril Cusack, the faced paced script by Kenneth Ross (Breaker Morant) keeps you absorbed from beginning to end.
Thanks awfully, Edward!!
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VINE VOICEon June 29, 1999
"The Day of the Jackel" not to be confused with the inferior remake "The Jackel", is a marvelous character study of the coldest, coolest, most illusive and highly skilled assassin ever brought to the silver screen. With a superior cast headed by Edward Fox, and an outstanding script, this movie plunges the viewer in a riveting cat-and-mouse manhunt.
No, this movie doesn't have explosions and car chases, but what it does have is intelligence and suspense. The tension builds wonderfully as the Jackel, a man of brilliant disguises, nears his prey (Charles de Gaulle) with the intrepid constable a step behind.
Rent it or buy it, but for heaven sakes, see it! Between 1 and 10, "The Day of the Jackel" gets a 10.
As far as the remake, "The Jackel", in and of itself, it isn't really a bad film, it has just been modernized and adulterated with gadgets in lieu of a believable script.
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on September 16, 2004
It's worth watching Michael Caton-Jones 1997 remake with Bruce Willis just to get a measure of just how good this is, just how easy it would be to make a routine, dull, forgettable film using the essentials of this plot. Routine, dull and forgettable is exactly what Caton-Jones and Willis deliver. What Zinnemann and Edward Fox deliver is one of the very classiest thrillers there is. It's a beautifully understated film, a quiet and deceptively slow-moving cat and mouse game in which Fox's mysterious super-assassin, the Jackal, is hired by the OAS to kill General de Gaulle. As he moves in on his target the authorities and in particular French Detective Lebel struggle frantically to stop him. The latter part of the story is a brilliantly compelling police procedural where we watch the combined forces of two countries, France and Britain, plod through endless tedious chores, ploughing through thousands of passport applications in search of a single dodgy one or through all the hotel registration books in greater Paris looking for people claiming to be Danish one of whom might be their man. Meanwhile Fox is superb as the Jackal - hateful though he clearly is, at least a part of one's brain is rooting for him through much of the movie, at least until the body count of those who have got in his way starts to mount up, just because he is a single individual pitted absolutely alone against the might of two states and everything their security apparatus can thrown at him. And so the story moves on through countless beautifully conceived details, the OAS spy who seduces a top official to keep tabs on the investigation, Delphine Seyrig and Anton Rogers as the people the Jackal seduces, best of all perhaps Cyril Cusack as the assiduously comme il faut gunsmith, calmly asking Fox, "Will the gentleman be moving?" as if he were a tailor making a suit. Finally we arrive at a climax that should be relatively free of suspense - we all know after all that de Gaulee in fact retired peacefully in 1969 - but is in fact one of the most brilliantly tense climaxes of any thriller I know.
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on June 26, 2005
This review is for the 1998 widescreen DVD release by Universal.

This is a truly great movie. The plot is riveting and screen writing is flawless. The villain is Edward Fox who plays the "The Jackal", a hitman who is hired to kill French leader General Charles de Gaulle. The movie shows how the Jackal goes to great lengths and uses ingenious methods in attempting to assassinate de Gaulle. Likewise, the police authorities use intelligence and tireless detective work to track him down which builds up to a great ending. There are so many things to like about this movie, but what also stands out for me is that all of the actors are virtually unknown to American cinema. The widescreen color DVD transfer is sharp and pristine. A must-have DVD for any person who loves intrigue and suspense!

Movie: A+

DVD Quality: A
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on March 14, 2013
Having seen the original film and thought it brilliant, I bought the DVD version.

The original film was a full night's entertainment at the movies, and was shown in two parts with an interval between them.

But in the much abridged DVD version, many important scenes have either been left out entirely, or have been so cut as to be meaningless. For example, the scene in the hotel when the Jackal, on his way to his first meeting with the OAS conspirators, tumbles to the presence of their "gorilla" behind a curtin in the lobby, goes straight back out and phones them, telling them to get rid of the Gorilla immediately. Important character development: cut right out.

And so on, and so on.

I got one DVD and feel cheated. I would have preferred to pay whatever (cost to Universal < A$0.50 ) for the extra DVD and got the whole thing. I would be ashamed to play this disappointing cut down UNIVERSAL PICTURES (UK) DVD to any of my friends.

Could serve as a coaster under a beer glass, perhaps.
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on August 18, 1999
First of all, DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT dare to even compare "The Day of the Jackal" with the Bruce Willis fiasco you've seen recently on theatres!
This is the original, the one and only, the based-on-the-Forsyth-bestseller masterpiece! A truer-to-life thriller -or a more exciting one- you ain't gonna get. Not only the historical background makes it so much more interesting, the characters, locations, narration and pace are top notch! Edward Fox relishes his role of a lifetime as the suave British killer without any blazing gunbattles, car chases, goring bloodfests, profanities or macho rantings that supposedly "spice up" movies nowadays.
Just compare this golden oldie with it's 1998 abominable remake, to comprehend why "less is more" is always wise!
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on January 16, 2002
This tremendously entertaining film has lost none of it's impact in nearly 30 years. Fred Zinnemann's adaptation of the Frederick Forsythe thriller is compulsive viewing for fans of political thrillers, espionage and deadly assassins. Loosely based on events surrounding the French involement in Algeria in the 1950's, Forsythe penned his novel in only a few weeks and it shot to the top of the best seller list immediately....and attracted the movie makers with it's dynamic plot and complex characters.
Edward Fox created one the best killers EVER bought to the screen...Fox's character is dashing, debonair, charming and a ruthless assassin who is innovative, driven and exceptionally cold blooded. Where as we have become sorely accustomed to seeing current day movie assassins as highly testosteroned gorillas toting machine guns and loaded with lethal gadgets, Fox's suave, intelligent liquidator is streets ahead of any of them in his murderous portrayal. Michel Lonsdale (in probably his best role) is the intrepid and wily French police inspector who is given the invidious task of finding a faceless man who is on a single minded mission to kill President Charles DeGaulle.
Zinnemann never lets the pace slow up from start to finish. His excellent direction of this deadly game of "cat and mouse" is inventive, taut and brillianty staged. A first rate support cast of predominantly lesser known actors lend a superb authenticity to the feel of the story (Loved Cyril Cusack as the Jackal's expert gunsmith).
It would have been a bonus to have some insightful extras with this DVD, but alas there were none! Never to mind, "The Day of the Jackal" is A-class entertainment from beginning to end and belongs on the shelf of any devotee of stimulating and riveting it now !
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on February 12, 2005
This is by far the best spy thriller I have ever seen. Not a thing is out of place here. The attention to details is just amazing. Acting is very good, plot is excellent, and directing is great. It is amazing how dedicated and professional both Lebel and the Jackal are. One is the bad guy, and the other is the good guy, and yet you cannot help but have respect for both of them. No bells and whistles here, just pure storytelling at its best.
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