A TV character’s life must be about more than just staying alive. It needs a purpose.
Adapting a novel into a TV series is a risky hit or miss venture. And when that novel already had a successful, well-regarded film adaptation–1975’s ‘Three Days of the Condor’–one might wonder, What’s the point? Yet, Audience Network felt compelled to modernize this cold-war era spy thriller into ‘Condor‘. And I’m still asking, “What’s the point?”
The premise, at least, remains the same as the film/novel: a low-level analysis, Joe Turner (Max Irons), working for the CIA discovers something seemingly insignificant which results in his entire office being killed. And as he’s the only survivor he becomes a convenient scapegoat precipitating a citywide, cross agency manhunt. Where can he go? Who can he trust? And what did he unknowingly uncover?
Replacing the legendary Robert Redford as “Joe Turner” is a daunting task. Max Irons may have the looks, the physicality, and the steely glances down cold. However, I felt his performance lacked charisma and sense of emotional weight. Perhaps, because, unlike the novel and original film, this Turner has a lot more personal tragedy to bear. Seriously, showrunner Jason Smilovic clearly hates Turner and wanted everything he loves to wither and die before his (and our) eyes.
His escapades with wrong place/wrong time “partner” Kathy Hale (Katherine Cunningham in the Faye Dunaway role) was the central relationship of the classic film, yet, is buried here beneath multiple levels of escalating conspiracies, undecipherable double-dealings, and compounding catastrophes.
Offering up a host of potential allies, including the great William Hurt as “Uncle Bob“, only muddies the water as their eminent demises and/or betrayals are most likely coming soon. So despite a plethora of talent and reasonably decent character/relationship building attempts I just stopped caring.
Thankfully, the bad(?) guys fare a little better with a brilliant Brendan Fraser, a wormy Bob Ballaban, an underutilized Mira Sorvino, and Leem Lubany’s wonderfully perverse protrayal of assassin extraordinaire “Joubert” (in a nice gender reversal for Max Van Sydow’s film character).
Yes–the stakes are high, the threat is real, and everything looks hopeless. I just think the producers miss the point of what makes the best of television work. If we don’t see a rainbow, any rainbow, at the end of the storm we simply stop giving a sh*t. Even if, against all odds, Joe figures out whose doing what and where and when and then is actually able to do something to stop it, does it even matter anymore if everyone involved just ends up dead?
Even with great production values, some damn fine acting from a diverse cast, and a reasonably smart underlying story I actually began to winch with the prospect of watching another episode. I only stuck with it for completion sake and in the hopes of a some miraculous turn around that never came. Season One of Audience’s ‘Condor‘ is a genuine exercise in unrelenting masochism.