From legendary writer/director Francis Ford Coppola comes a morose and quiet thriller about an introverted but brilliant surveillance operative who finds himself looking too deeply into the sensitive case he is monitoring.
Gene Hackman excellently portrays Harry Caul, an undercover agent who bugs communications, records and monitors members of the public, a man who let’s his career dominate all aspects of his life. As such, he is socially recluse and awkward, unable to express himself as his mind prefers to race with the recorded conversations of others rather than his own.
Paranoia plays heavily in the film also; Harry’s expertise makes him wary of sharing any and all information with anyone, no matter how small. While this complete lack of feedback makes the film incredibly slow paced, Hackman’s subtly and body language sell the image of a man tormented by his own talents.
While the story focuses around Harry’s increasing fear for the lives of the individuals he his spying on, Coppola maintains a neutral pace, scarcely giving away many details until the end. Many may find the film critically flawed in its lack of information, but it is unique in its silent, drawn out scenes; making even the slightest sound become critical – as is Harry’s profession – in turn adding great contrast whenever Harry’s lively friends are around him.
Made me think of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, only with sound rather than visuals. It is incredibly slow and likely not for everyone, but I enjoyed it as an example of subtle film-making… not much of that nowadays.