Movie Review: The Conversation (1974)

Posted: April 7, 2012 in Drama


Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is a surveillance expert asked by the Director of a huge corporation (Robert Duvall) to listen in on a conversation between the director’s wife Ann(Cindy Williams) and the man named Mark (Fredrick Forrest) she seems to be dating on the side.  When Caul hears the conversation, he believes that the young couple is being targeted for murder, and he doesn’t want to be a part of it.  So he steadfastly refuses to turn over the tapes to the Assistant Director, Martin Strett (Harrison Ford) Harry feels an impending sense of doom, not only for the young couple, but for himself, as Strett becomes more menacing, following Harry’s every move.  Harry takes a room at the hotel, in a room next to where the murder is going to take place.  What happens next?

I’m torn about this movie, I really am.  There is a great performance here by Hackman as Caul, as a deeply religious, paranoid, secretive loner.  He does not want to open up about himself, or his work.  There’s a scene where Hackman has a dream, and opens up about his childhood to Ann, and it’s a revelation. There are also good performances by Cindy Williams and Harrison Ford.   But as good as the performances are, they are undermined by a story that is much too long, and pacing that is much too slow.  There are really unnecessary subplots about a surveillance rival, an electronics surveillance convention, a possible love interest for Harry, all detracted from the central plot and slowed the pace dramatically.  This movie was written and directed by Francis Ford Coppela , of the Godfather movies and Apocalypse Now, so he knows a thing or two about story, and pacing, so the  hourglass  like pacing and endless subplots are a mystery to me.  Referring to the head of the organization as “Director” is misleading and a copout, because I thought it was talking about the Director of the FBI, and corruption in government, after all it was the era of Watergate, and Vietnam, but finding out this was about corporate  intrigue was a disappointment.

The Conversation: Lots of Talk, little said.

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