DIRECTOR: William Friedkin
May Contain Spoilers!
Almost 41 years later, this films gritty realism, fleshed out characters and slow burn, procedural police thriller plotting, is still something to behold. Is this a masterpiece within its own genre? Undoubtedly, but it has also aged just as much.
The fact that this is a 70’s thriller is hardly an issue and in fact, adds to the gritty feel, but its influence is still felt far and wide. I’m one who often refers to the post Bourne era, where more realist, reactionary spy/cop dramas have taken the place of more formulaic fodder, but this is clearly the grandfather of this type of filmmaking, and Bourne owes a huge debt to this film.
The moment when a sniper takes a shot at Gene Hackman’s, “Popeye” Doyle, which goes onto spark the famous El-train sequence, is so perfectly handled, that it sent a chill down my spine. Throughout the film there’s a palpable sense of tension as the key protagonists, good or bad never seem to be in control, with all of them doing their part and reacting to events rather than playing to them.
Friedkin is as famous for this as he is for his later work, The Exorcist, but this is miles better, whist still operating within similar parameters. His style is, at times, wonderful in its crudeness, and is always effective at drawing us into the action or even just the conversations. This is a great film, though not the easiest to watch as it is pretty heavy with the dingey 1970’s ghetto atmosphere so be warned, but this is must see for any film buff, that’s for sure!