Directed By: Fred Zinnemann
Starring: Edward Fox, Terence Alexander, Michel Auclair
Tag line: "The Jackal spent 71 days, 56 minutes thinking a bullet into the brain of de Gaulle"
Trivia: There are 31 individual insert shots of clocks in the movie
Director Fred Zinnemann's 1973 political thriller, The Day of the Jackal, is downright obsessed with the particulars.
The OAS, an underground organization bent on assassinating French President Charles DeGaulle, has thus far failed in every attempt they've made on the leader’s life. Desperate for results, they bring in an outsider, a British assassin known only as the Jackal (Edward Fox), to finish the job. A true professional, the Jackal’s meticulous attention to detail confounds the rank and file of the French police, who have thus far been unable to determine either his true identity or his whereabouts. Enter Claude Lebel (Michael Lonsdale), considered by many the best detective on the force. With time ticking away, Lebel must resort to extreme measures to locate the elusive Jackal and prevent him from carrying out his murderous assignment.
In relating its tense tale of political wrangling, The Day of the Jackal explores two separate, yet equally intriguing stories. On the one hand, we follow the Jackal as he sets his plan in motion, from acquiring a false identity to the purchase of his weapon, a specialized rifle that is virtually untraceable. At the same time, we also tag along with the police, specifically Lebel and his partner, Caron (Derek Jacobi), who seek assistance from outside organizations, including Scotland Yard, to learn as much as they can about this mysterious assassin. This is where the film truly sets itself apart. So often, in a movie of this nature, we spend most of the time following a single plot line, usually at the expense of all others, which are either completely ignored or, at the very least, under-developed. In The Day of the Jackal, each side gets a fair shake. By the time the film's over, you'll have difficulty deciding which of the two was the more provocative story.
The Day of the Jackal is clever in both style and form, and we the audience are treated to a real bargain when watching this well-crafted thriller. After all, it isn’t often we’re given what amounts to two stories for the price of one!