The Day of the Jackal

7.82 h 23 min1973X-RayPG
French radicals hire British hitman to assassinate Charles de Gaulle.
Fred Zinnemann
Edward FoxMichel LonsdaleTony Britton
English [CC]
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Supporting actors
Terence AlexanderCyril CusackAlan BadelMichel AuclairDenis CareyMaurice DenhamAdrien Cayla-LegrandVernon DobtcheffJacques FrancoisOlga Georges-PicotRaymond GeromeBarrie InghamDerek JacobiJean MartinRonald PickupEric PorterAnton Rodgers
John WoolfDavid DeutschJulian Derode
PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
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4.7 out of 5 stars

2027 global ratings

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Mike PowersReviewed in the United States on January 19, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
"The Day of the Jackal:" a political/crime thriller at its very best.
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I remember reading Frederick Forsyth's masterful thriller "The Day of the Jackal" way back in the 1970s, when I was still in college. Unfortunately, I never got to see the movie that was made from the book...

...Until last weekend, that is, when I discovered "The Day of the Jackal" on Amazon Video. I quickly purchased it, adding it to my video library.

The film version of "The Day of the Jackal" is every bit as good as the book it's based on. The movie's plot is pretty straightforward: during the early 1960s in France, a right-wing domestic paramilitary group, opposed to French President Charles de Gaulle's policies concerning Algeria, has made several unsuccessful attempts to assassinate de Gaulle. The group's leaders decide to hire a foreign contract killer to take on the job of killing the French president. That man turns out to be a cold, ruthless, but outwardly suave man known only as "The Jackal."

Senior ministers in the French government are made aware of the plot against de Gaulle's life. They assign their best investigator - an assistant police commissioner named Lebel - to find out if the plot is real, who is behind it, and who the assassin is that's supposed to kill the French president. The film shows the parallel courses of action taken by "The Jackal" (played by British character actor Edward Fox) and Commissioner Lebel (played by French actor Michael Lonsdale).

Although there isn't a great deal of "shoot 'em up" action in "The Day of the Jackal," the film consistently maintains a high degree of "edge-of-your-seat" suspense throughout its 132-minute running time. I found myself completely engrossed in the film from its opening to its closing credits. The acting is superb, the screenplay by Kenneth Ross is always taut and tense, and Fred Zinneman's direction is masterful.

"The Day of the Jackal" is a political/crime thriller at its very best. Most highly recommended.
69 people found this helpful
John P. Jones IIIReviewed in the United States on April 25, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
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I read Frederick Forsyth’s fast-paced political thriller in the 1970’s. I’ve been through La Place de Rennes many times subsequently and have frequently looked up at the open windows in the building surrounding La Place… and have thought about the professional assassin who might be still lurking, waiting for the perfect shot. Of course, there never was a professional assassin there in the first place. Forsyth’s book is almost entirely fictional but based on very real political forces at the time.

The book was published in 1971. This movie, directed by Fred Zinneman, largely very faithful to the book, was released in 1973. This was my first viewing. The movie replicates the fast-pace. The two plus hours flew by.

Algeria was an integral part of France. The war in Algeria, commencing in 1954, almost tore the country apart. At one time tanks surrounded government buildings in Paris, to deter French paratroopers from staging a coup. De Gaulle went to Algiers and famously proclaimed: “Je vous ai compris.” (I understood you). Within four years over a million pieds noirs poured in metropolitan France, many bitter at their loss of the homes and homeland. That bitterness was given political expression by the creation of the OAS (Organisation Armée Secrète), a right-wing paramilitary outfit who felt betrayed by what that perceived as de Gaulle’s volte-face on Algeria. And they sought to kill him.

The early part of the movie is based on very real events. Somehow de Gaulle survived, unscathed, a well-organized assassination attempt in Paris led by Col. Jean-Marie Bastien-Thiry. Interestingly, though not in the movie, the code name for the attempt was “Operation Charlotte Corday.” In the movie, as in real life, Bastien-Thiry would be executed by firing squad, the last person in French history to have acquired this distinction. (In the movie he makes a confident statement in his jail cell that no French soldier would shoot him).

The OAS goes deep underground, and abroad, to Austria and Italy. Their organization is riddled with informers, so they decide to hire an outsider to kill de Gaulle. Edward Fox brilliantly plays “the Jackal,” a code-name which (may, or may not, as the movie subsequently reveals) be based on the first three letters of his first and last name: “cha” & “cal”, which is the French word for Jackal.

For Algeria “aficionados,” as I have a certain weakness to be, the role of the actor Jean Martin is ironic. In the movie “The Battle of Algiers,” he plays Colonel Mathieu, the ram-rod straight colonel who leads the 10th Paras into Algiers and breaks the back of the FLN there. He uses torture to accomplish this objective. In the “Day of the Jackal” he plays an OAS operative, Wolinski. He is captured by French authorities who decide to use torture to break the OAS, and do so, as depicted by some graphic scenes in the movie. He is reminded that: “they always talk in the end.”

The heart of the movie is the fast-moving battle of wits between the truly psychopathic killer, the Jackal, who, even though he realizes many of his covers have been blown, continues on, and the French super-detective, Lebel, also brilliantly played by Michael Lonsdale. The ultimate point of convergence is the aforementioned Place de Rennes.

At one point in the movie I wanted to scream about the sorrow of human existence. The Jackal meets a very attractive woman, Colette, played by Delphine Seyrig. Why not just forget the whole thing, and stay with her? Yet all too many humans are simply not wired that way. Alas. As for “political thrillers,” this one was very well-done, and touched some familiar chords: 5-stars.
15 people found this helpful
Mark A.Reviewed in the United States on October 14, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Arrow Video Blu Ray Release Terrific
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The Day of the Jackal is one of my all time favorite movies. The 2018 Arrow Video Blu Ray is well worth the price in my opinion. I did purchase the HD version on Amazon Prime a couple of years ago. The new version has greatly upgraded video and audio. The Prime version has quite a lot of flecks and specks in the video and is nowhere near as clear and clean as the Blu Ray release's video. Audio on the Blu Ray is uncompressed mono but sounds really good. There is no surround track included as an option as there may have been if Criterion had put out this release. I tend to prefer watching older movies with the soundtrack as originally intended by the Director though. The initial run of the Blu Ray comes with a nice book insert inside a white Blu Ray case like other Arrow releases.
16 people found this helpful
Charles MReviewed in the United States on January 7, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
A great historical movie.
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From the bestselling book. Anyone interested in the history of post war France wrapped up in a nail biter, would appreciate the accuracy of this film. Add to that the directing, acting, and casting, results in a top notch piece of work. Speaking of casting, relative unknown actors were used on purpose, and it worked beautifully. The only problem the producers of "The Jackal" had, in my view, is that they competed with classics also released in 1973, such as "The Sting" and "American Graffiti," among others. For this reason, "Jackal" is not as well known. Nevertheless, it is among my own top ten movies. Highly recommended. Betcha couldn't tell. Get this movie, and watch it several times so you can grab the little details and nuances. You won't regret it.
22 people found this helpful
Keith R. SauerwaldReviewed in the United States on July 27, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
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This is another scandalous video that I have received from Amazon that my TWO multi zone players REFUSE to play. In each instance, upon inserting the disc, a message is seen on my tv screen, informing me that the disc CANNOT be played and is ONLY playable in zone A. It is well beyond time for this stupid zone system to be scrapped. Currently, I have TEN blu-ray movies, that are ZONE A and refuse to play. Amazon should NOT BE SELLING ZONE A blu-ray discs in Australia, when it surely knows, only too well, that the buyer will NOT be ably to play them. It is beyond time that Amazon saw fit to make their custom ers happy, by refusing to sell zone A discs. Some of these movies were bought months ago,,,,,"THE TRAIN," "THE CRANES ARE FLYING," "YOJIMBO," "SANJURO" AND MANY MORE. It has got to the point of where I now actually dread opening the package as I am likely to find another useless ZONE A , UNPLAYABLE movie. MOVIE A. Maybe, Amazon should send me, free of charge, a TOP RANGE, ZONE FREE PLAYER, TO COMPENSATE ME FOR THE VALUE OF THE EXPENDITURE THAT I HAVE ALREADY OUTLAYED ON THESE UNPLAYABLE MOVIES.
2 people found this helpful
Robert L. CochranReviewed in the United States on August 15, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Brings back recent French history
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I really enjoyed watching this movie. It was filmed mostly in France, and as a result there are wonderful glimpses of the France of 1972, especially Paris. So I got to see how French citizens of that time dressed, and got about, and the hotels and storefronts and home interiors that they had. How interesting! There was only one shot for a few seconds of what looked like a subway entrance in Paris, and I was hoping to see an example of Hector Guimard's Metro entrances. Having never gone to France, I was most impressed by the government offices used by the various French officials in the film. It appears that individual offices only had task lighting on the desks; there was no overhead lighting for the entire room. The ministerial meeting rooms were exceptions, of course, and indeed very elegant.

I was amazed at the amount of cigarette smoking I saw the actors doing. I know that was very common in the 1960s, but it surprises me still.

I have read Forsyth's book of the same name: several times, in fact. Both book and this film do have one major logical gaffe: they portray the Jackal assembling his specially built rifle for the first time, with no prompting from the gunsmith at all in the film, and only one sentence in the book. How could the Jackal have known the exact assembly steps for the rifle in advance, without seeing any part of the weapon until that moment? That is a flaw in both the movie and book. One would also think that as a good technician, the Jackal would do a few days of training with the rifle, working on several paper or watermelon targets, to be sure he mastered the weapon. In the film, he fires less than 10 shots, and is done.

Edward Fox does a really great job of portraying the Jackal. As in the book, the Jackal pushes ahead ruthlessly even when he learns the assassination plot is known. What is not made clear in the movie is that if he gives up the hunt (as the ministers speculate), he will have to return most of the money he was paid by the OAS. Also, with French authorities alerted, it would be very difficult for him to leave France without the risk of detection and arrest. Perhaps the Jackal we see at the classic fork in the road, with the left fork pointing to Paris, and the right fork to Italy, was thinking of these things. He takes a deep breath and turns left. To paraphrase the book, the Jackal thought he could beat the security screen. Evidently, he must have had some plan for getting himself out of France after completing the hit. We, the viewers (and readers of the book) will never know what that plan was. We must assume that so clever a person had an escape plan that he felt would work.

My favorite character in the movie is the Minister of the Interior. He was tasked with mobilizing the various French government agencies and French security forces to identify, locate, and stop the Jackal, and in the movie, he does so calmly and logically. He understands the need to delegate responsibilities to the other ministries and to Claude Lebel, the detective assigned to actually identify and locate the Jackal. In the movie he does not smoke or yell at anyone, and remains calm even with the massive stress.

My second favorite character in the book is Denise, the woman who gets in a relationship with one of the ministers and keeps the agent Valmy well informed of what Lebel is doing and what action the various ministries are taking against the Jackal. Perhaps in her eyes it was not the Jackal or the OAS she was supporting. Instead, she was fighting a battle for her much loved boyfriend, a French soldier who was killed in Algeria. Through the minister she was extracting information from, she knew what the Jackal had been hired for. I guess she wanted de Gaulle to pay for the death of her boyfriend. I think what Denise did was wrong, completely so, but I can also understand her reasons for doing it. She had lost the man she loved.

My third favorite character in the movie is Claude Lebel's wife. She made me laugh in each of her two appearances in the film. "Claude! The minister wants to see you!" and then she opens the curtains and grabs his foot to try and wake him up from a deep sleep.

I did not like the scenes involving torture being used by French officials on Waldoski, and evidently it sickened the team of men who were trying to transcribe the audio take of his confession, too.

One odd thing about the movie was the use of German motorcycles by French police officials. You would think that France, after being invaded so horribly by the Nazis during World War II, would not buy German products for official government purposes. But in the movie you see motorcycle messengers zooming off -- mounted on BMW motorcycles. Strange, that. Perhaps there were no reliable French-built motorcycles at that time.

Overall this is a very interesting movie, showing the France of 1972.
S RogersReviewed in the United States on September 30, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Stunning new Bluray transfer
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The Day of the Jackal has always been one of my favorite films. Exceptionally directed by Zinnemann with a great screenplay and cast, Edward Fox started in films in the early 60's and this 1973 performance is all one could ask. The surrounding cast is without weakness, including Michael Lonsdale, Derek Jacobi, Timothy West and Cyril Cusack. But what is special about this 2018 bluray release is that it is stunning. You would never peg this as a 1973 film given this release's amazing video and audio. Treat yourself - this is the Jackal to buy. Did I mention that it is a great film?
9 people found this helpful
benedictaReviewed in the United States on May 10, 2015
4.0 out of 5 stars
well worth studying how it was put together
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Many have written insightful reviews praising this now historic movie for excellence in many areas of film. I agree it is a Beautifully photographed, detailed and sweeping panorama. It includes a cold, focused, ectomorphic hired killer and people who hire him, help him, protect him, and love him, as well as those who try to stop him.

The artful successes of this movie are many and have been reviewed by others.

I wanted to point out the brief but carefully crafted performance of Cyril Cusack, who had a long career and in my opinion was always terrific. Cyril Cusack plays a gunsmith paid to produce a custom-made weapon for the assassin. At the very beginning of his scene, as Cusack comes on-camera, he somehow resembles Claude Raines (Casablanca), with all that may bring to mind.

I wanted to mention something I noticed--which is that at times the suspense is increased because one character seems to resemble another and we wonder who it is.
Two French actresses, neither born in France, both born into families of diplomats, play small but pivotal roles in Day of the Jackal. Their names are Olga Georges-Picot and Delphine Seyrig. One plays an auburn-haired girl hired by the OAS (Organisation Armee Secrete). Her job as OAS mole is to burrow deeply into the private life of someone currently helping to find the OAS assassin, and to report back any information. This she does.

The other, Delphine Seyrig, plays an auburn-haired Frenchwoman, living in a beautiful country home like a chateau, who encounters the assassin by chance. The meeting changes her life, and the life of the assassin.

1973, when this movie was first shown, is approximately the time more explicitness showed up in novels and films, possibly also in song lyrics. Are we better off?
Whether the flashes of nudity--the hired assassin's backside lighted to emphasize the musculature--are appropriate for a PG rated movie is a valid question raised in these reviews. Probably this isn't PG at all, given the series of murders the assassin performs to hide his trail.

What the nudity may have been intended to show was how vulnerable and very far offtrack the assassin had allowed himself to go. One could say he lost focus and lost sight of his main objective , Very dangerous results for him...

I do think some historical background would be helpful for anyone viewing this film. What was the Organisation Armee Secrete? (OAS). Was deGaulle really a survivor of 30 attempts on his life? What was the Algerian question about?

I do feel if the rating is kept at PG, it will require a lot of parental guidance. It's about murder, and paid murder at that.

Very sweeping, film, wonderfully pictorial of Parisian landmarks and culture, and also the south of France, a little of Italy.
11 people found this helpful
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