The Day of the Jackal

Movie Information

In Brief: It's big. It's glossy. It's competently professional. It rarely thrills, and it goes on for an unconscionable 143 minutes. In other words, it's a Fred Zinnemann film. Zinnemann is probably the last person I'd approach to make a thriller — and this movie illustrates why. What this shaggy yarn about an assassination attempt of French president Charles de Gaulle has going for it — apart from slick professionalism — amounts to one chillingly inhuman performance from Edward Fox as the titular would-be assassin and some nice supporting turns from the rest of the cast. It's the kind of movie — even for all its casual violence — that seemed old-fashioned in 1973 and hasn't exactly become any less in the intervening years. It's not bad, just badly judged.
Genre: Political Thriller
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Starring: Edward Fox, Terence Alexander, Michel Auclair, Alan Badel, Tony Britton
Rated: PG



The Day of the Jackal is a kind of movie that proliferated in the 1960s and into the ’70s. Adapted from a popular novel with location (usually European) shooting with a bloated running time and all the depth of a “beach novel,” these films were a last gasp of the studio era. They existed in a weird kind of vacuum that denied the existence of the influence of the French New Wave and the British Invasion movies, and were made by people who never really came to grips with the fact that the 1950s were over. These films seemed to still be locked in a long-dead battle with TV — relying on production values and length to offer something TV couldn’t. (People think of widescreen, 3D, color, and stereophonic sound as the big weapons against TV, but sheer length was also a factor.) They paid lip-service to some changes — sneaking in the odd bare breast here and naked bottom there (what you could do within the confines of a PG rating was very different then) — but it always seemed like the cinematic equivalent of “old folks making rhythm,” and felt arbitrary. This is exactly what The Day of the Jackal represents. As such, it’s more interesting as an artifact than as a movie.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Day of the Jackal Sunday, April 26, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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