When I first heard of a television adaptation of the movie Three Days of the Condor, itself an adaptation of James Grady’s novel Six Days of the Condor, I was slightly skeptical but willing to give it a chance. The book is a classic, what spy fiction fan doesn’t love a book about a guy who sits around reading spy novels, and the movie is quite good as well.
With last year’s premiere of Condor, the new title losing an additional three days, the main ding against it was the widespread lack of the cable channel it was airing on. Released as part of the newly created Audience Channel by AT&T and initially only available via DIRECT TV, it was difficult if not impossible to find. Insult to injury, I was not hearing great things from folks who had watched the first episode.
Luckily, following the first season they gave the show a DVD release, something that is getting less and less typical. I settled in to watch the ten episode first season to decide for myself on its quality and I’m glad I did.
For those fans of the film I can see how the first couple episodes of the series may rub the wrong way as they hit most of the original film’s beats.The show kicks off like the film – with the murder of an entire CIA analyst unit, excepting Joe Turner (Max Irons) who then needs to go on the run to find those responsible and clear his name. If that sounds a bit straightforward, you’re right.
However, starting in episode three something funny begins to happen. The show starts building out it’s universe, adding interesting layers and textures on its heroes and villains. It plays with the narrative and has the story zig where you expected it to zag. Finally, all the pieces fall into place at the end and it feels like a complete story, not something that leaves you on a cliffhanger. It has become something distinct and separate from the film.
The cast is excellent. Condor takes the time to shift focus away from its leading man and into the where’s and why’s of the supporting players, all of whom get their own moment to shine. William Hurt, Mira Sorvino and Bob Balaban all make good shifty CIA officers and Brendan Fraser turns the typical role of heavy into something really interesting. While their new assassin is no Max Von Sydow, Leem Lubany does give a star making performance as a relentless killer. Max Irons does a fine job in what tends to be the least showy role in these types of shows, the leading man as honorable hero.
As with the first season of my other favorite spy show of the past couple years, Berlin Station, Condor has the feel of a novel. It’s not written as part one of a ongoing saga but rather a full story with a beginning, middle and end. Even my wife was addicted which says something as I’ve dragged her through more than her fair share of bad spy shows. Condor is consistently surprising and I highly recommend checking it out. If you watched the first episode or two and passed on the rest, give it another chance.
The show was renewed for a second season with the same creative team at the helm. I’ll be eagerly waiting to see what new nefariousness they will have cooked up.