Let’s define our purpose. These are not three movies that are going to change your life (although Number Two is widely considered a classic). We’re not talking Citizen Kane epic greatness or most spectacular conservative movies ever or anything of that sort. These are simply three highly entertaining films that happen to deal with themes of embedded systemic corruption and/or Deep State and behind-the-curtain dark power. Given that we are living in an age where the American citizenry is being cruelly betrayed by the government institutions and political leaders that are meant to serve it, it’s a subject well worth pondering.
Three Days of the Condor – This 1975 thriller has all the hallmarks of post-Watergate cynicism and stars noted Hollywood liberal Robert Redford. Refreshingly, however, the film stays away from heavy-handed political bias and focuses on being a fine action drama. Redford plays a meek, librarian-type lower-level CIA researcher who unwittingly gets caught up in agency black-ops intrigue. Max von Sydow is brilliant as an ultra-professional hired killer out to get him while underrated actor Cliff Robertson shines as the CIA handler Redford struggles to trust. The presentation of cold calculation by rogue government personnel is especially well done, and the film’s characterization of U.S intelligence officials as amoral rather than immoral is deftly utilized to make them seem even more dangerous to the best interests of the American people.
Serpico – A strong argument can be made that this gritty 1973 police drama is Al Pacino’s best acting performance outside of the two Godfather movies made within the same dazzling three-year time span. But equally compelling is the classic portrait of systemic institutional corruption depicted by director Sidney Lumet. Based on the true story of Frank Serpico, who exposed rampant corruption in the New York Police Department, the real stars of the movie alongside Pacino are the endless array of faces of routine officers, of both high rank and low, who not only are in on the organized bribery infesting the NYPD but take it for granted much like the air they breathe. Watching Serpico stagger from one nest of soiled badges to another in a fruitless search to find just one branch or borough free of corruption, one precinct where he will simply be allowed to do his job, one imagines how it must be for the newly elected representative arriving in Washington for the first time. Can’t you just picture a Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) having a conversation with a bright-eyed, idealistic newly elected Republican similar to this?
Fellow officer: You’d never hurt another cop, right? You’d never hurt another cop, would you, Frank?
Serpico: Well, that’d depend on what he did.
Officer: That’s the wrong answer, Frankie.
Harlequin – Obviously far lesser known than the above Redford and Pacino vehicles, this little gem of a film offers a fascinating hook. It puts Rasputin, the mad monk who helped bring down czarism in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century, into the modern political world of 1980 Australia. English actor Robert Powell, best known for his acclaimed performance as the title character in the TV miniseries Jesus of Nazareth, is perfect casting as Gregory Wolf, a mysterious healer, seer, and magician with all the same beguiling charisma and character flaws that marked Rasputin. Is he holy mystic or con man? The heart of the film surrounds Wolf’s interactions with a keenly ambitious politician named Rast, who serves as the Czar Nicholas of the storyline. Wolf has a healing effect on Rast’s young son, suffering from leukemia as opposed to the hemophilia that afflicted the Russian heir, Alexis. But his real mission appears to be to reach Rast himself, who is in thrall to far more powerful forces of persuasion, the string pullers behind the scenes who can make or break great political careers. The choices Rast makes will show how much of himself he is willing to sacrifice for high political office. This surely may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a recommended watch for those who enjoy contemplating the subject material that is the basis for this article.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.
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