The Day of the Jackal (film)
name = The Day of the Jackal
John Woolf Julien Derode David Deutsch
starring = Edward Fox
runtime = 145 minutes
language = English
amg_id = 1:61917
imdb_id = 0069947 "The Day of the Jackal" is a 1973 film set in late 1963, based on a novel of the same name by
Frederick Forsyth. Directed by Fred Zinnemann, it stars Edward Fox as the assassin known only as "the Jackal" who was hired to assassinate Charles de Gaulle.
The film was expensive to produce, as it was filmed on location throughout Europe. Despite being heavily promoted, being based on a successful novel, and receiving generally positive reviews, the film was a box-office failure. It did, however, make Edward Fox a star, though many speculated the film's lack of an established star (with
Michael Cainehaving lobbied for the lead role) was the reason for its lack of success. In his review of the film, Roger Ebertgave it a perfect 4/4 rating, and referred to it as "one hell of an exciting movie", and a "beautifully executed example of filmmaking".
Dissatisfied with French President
Charles de Gaulle's decision to give independence to Algeria, the OAS, a militant French underground organization, decide to assassinate de Gaulle, believing they can restore the glory of France by killing him. The leader of the OAS, Jean-Marie Bastien-Thirybotches the attempt, and with several other members of the plot, are caught and executed. The remaining leadership, demoralized and having fled the country to escape capture, realize they cannot finish the job they have started and have to hire a professional assassin.
After examining the dossiers of several candidates, they settle on one man, who comes to visit them. He points out that they have no choice about hiring a professional
assassin: not only is their organization riddled with police informants, but their bungling has made the job more difficult because de Gaulle's security has been enhanced. He agrees to take the assignment provided they pay half his large fee in advance, and comply with several conditions. There will be no further contact between the four men, other than a telephonenumber in Paris he can call to get information. He will only be known by his code name: "The Jackal".
The movie follows preparations the Jackal makes, including how, when and where to perform the hit (which is not disclosed), creation of fake identities and obtaining resources such as a rifle modified to look like something else, and photographs of himself as an old man. Despite being the title character, the "Jackal" talks least of all the characters; we understand his motivations and his brilliance by his actions. The violence is subdued; the additional killings The Jackal performs in the process of covering his actions are brief and almost invisible, or performed off-screen.
Meanwhile, security forces discover that a rash of bank robberies are being done by the OAS. Realizing leaders of the OAS are using the robberies to finance something, Security detains their chief clerk:
AdjutantViktor Wolenski. Rather than request Wolenski's extraditionfrom Austria, Security kidnap him in Italy and smuggle him into France.
Torturing Wolenski to death, Security extracts enough information to discover there is possibly a plot on the life of President de Gaulle by a foreign assassin whose code name may be Jackal, and if that is the case, it represents a national emergency. The Prime Minister convenes the
cabinetand the head of State Police admits there is no way they can find this Jackal by normal means. They can't detain him at the border; they don't know his name. "Action Service" (the government's professional assassins) can't destroy him if he's in another country: they don't know whom to destroy. They can't arrest him if he's in the country; they don't know who he is. They can't search for him, they don't know what he looks like. Without a name or face, they can do nothing. In short, they need the best detective to discover who The Jackal is - and in secrecy - before he plunges France into a crisis.
The Police Commissioner admits there is one man, a brilliant detective working for him, who can do the job: Deputy Commissioner Claude Lebel. Lebel is told to drop everything, focus on finding the Jackal and stopping him. He will have full powers and any resources he needs, subject to two requirements: no publicity, and do not fail. As in the novel, Deputy Commissioner Lebel is given a seemingly impossible assignment. Lebel's assistant Caron asks, "But no crime has been committed yet, so where are we supposed to start looking for the criminal?", to which Lebel answers, "We start by recognizing that, after de Gaulle, we are the two most powerful people in France."
As the Jackal has set up his preparations to commit the crime, Lebel also prepares to determine where The Jackal might be from, how he might perform the act and when and where he will do so. With assistance from the
old boy networkof police agencies in other countries, they discover a lead by looking for British subjects who have obtained passports as adults by using birth certificates of deceased children, and find a dead child, Paul Oliver Duggan, who applied for a passport decades after he had died. British MI-5, working "tap room" contacts, suspect the Jackal might be a hired assassin named Charles Calthrop, and that - while it may be coincidence - "Cha" in Charles and "Cal" in Calthrop spell the French word for "Jackal".
The police search the apartment belonging to Calthrop, and recover his passport. Which brings up the question, if they have his passport, what's he traveling on? French authorities are notified of Calthrop's identity as Duggan and look for him. Lebel discovers a few hours too late that Duggan - The Jackal's false identity - has already entered the country.
The Jackal stops in a French hotel, finds an attractive married woman, Madame Montpellier, whose husband is on holiday, and carries on a fling. He discovers Madame Montpellier's room number and residential address from the hotel register. He spends that night with her in her bed. He goes to her home to see her. After a love encounter, she mentions the police had been there, asking about him, and she knows he stole his car because it has local plates, but she will protect him if he'll tell her what he's doing. He kisses and quietly strangles her. The Jackal then assumes a new identity and disguise, and leaves early the next morning in Madame Montpellier's car, driving to a train station, heading to Paris.
In the meantime, Lebel discovers an informant: a telephone tap exposes that a member of the cabinet has a mistress, revealing details of the investigation to her in
pillow talk. Lebel admits he didn't know whose telephone to tap, so he tapped them all. Several of the cabinet members are surprised and perturbed.
Having disposed of the first identity of Duggan, the Jackal is now a bespectacled schoolteacher, using a Danish passport he stole before at
London airport. He travels on to Paris. Meanwhile, the police discover Madame Montpellier has been murdered, so Lebel no longer has to look for The Jackal in secrecy but make a full-publicity search. They discover the Danish Schoolteacher, Per Lundquist, got on the Paris train. They race to the station a few minutes too late to intercept the Jackal.
Lebel realizes they have only a few days to find the Jackal because he will shoot de Gaulle on Liberation Day, during a medal ceremony. Apparently dissatisfied at Lebel's presumptuousness in tapping their phones, the cabinet dismisses him with their thanks, saying they no longer need his help now that the manhunt has become public.
The Jackal knows all Parisian hotels are being watched by police. He enters a bathhouse, is approached by another man, who picks him up. They go to the man's apartment. Later the man sees a TV in a shop, recognizing the Jackal's face but not knowing why. As he mentions this to the Jackal, the TV in the apartment has a newsflash that Lundquist is wanted for the murder of Madame Montpellier. The Jackal kills the man off-screen in his kitchen, then switches off the TV.
The Prime Minister recalls Lebel, realizing that the 100,000 police and gendarmes looking for the Jackal will not find him, and that they need Lebel after all.
On Liberation Day, the Jackal, moving into his sniper position, passes a gendarme who inspects his papers. The Jackal has made himself look like an elderly amputee. The gendarme, seeing a one-legged old man on a crutch, lets him pass. The Jackal goes into an apartment building, kills the landlady, unties his leg, goes into a top-floor flat, and reveals to us that his crutches had a more sinister purpose, as he disassembles the crutches, a scoped, single shot rifle is assembled, which was disguised as the crutches.
The Jackal sets up his
sniper's nest and prepares to shoot de Gaulle where he will stand as he gives out medals at the ceremony. He waits. Meanwhile, Lebel is continuing to circulate, trying to figure from where the Jackal will strike. Lebel soon runs into the gendarme who had earlier met the disguised Jackal. After Lebel confirms his suspicions with the gendarme, the two of them run toward the apartment building to search for the Jackal.
Meanwhile, as de Gaulle is presenting medals to war veterans, the Jackal puts him in his sights. De Gaulle pauses for a moment, yet is still standing. The Jackal takes the head shot.
De Gaulle presents the medal, then leans his head forward to kiss the man, per French custom. The Jackal misses the shot. As he reloads for another shot at de Gaulle, Lebel orders the gendarme to machine gun the locked door, thus allowing them entry to the top-floor flat. The Jackal quickly turns toward the two, then shoots and kills the gendarme. As the Jackal starts reloading to shoot again, Lebel grabs the dead gendarme's
MAT-49 submachine gun. Before the Jackal can shoot him, Lebel fires a burst of bullets which hurl the Jackal across the room, dead. Lebel then looks out the window as the oblivious de Gaulle continues with the ceremony, unaware of how close death came to him that day.
Back in Britain, as police are looking over Calthrop's apartment, Charles Calthrop walks in and demands to know who they are and what they are doing there. So only then it becomes apparent that the Charles Calthrop who sparked the entire investigation was not actually the Jackal after all.
At the end of the film, as we watch the Jackal's coffin being lowered into the grave, we are left with the question: "Who the hell was he?"
Cast and roles
* Edward Fox - The Jackal
Michael Lonsdale- Claude Lebel Commissioner
Cyril Cusack- The Gunsmith
Delphine Seyrig- Colette de Montpelier
Philippe Léotard- Gendarme/Police Constable
Terence Alexander- Lloyd
Michel Auclair- Colonel Rolland
Alan Badel- The Minister
Tony Britton- Inspector Thomas
Denis Carey- Casson
Adrien Cayla-Legrand- President Charles de Gaulle
Maurice Denham- General Colbert
Vernon Dobtcheff- The Interrogator
Jacques François- Pascal
Olga Georges-Picot- Denise
Raymond Gérôme- Flavigny
Barrie Ingham- St. Clair (Ingham also provides the narration during the film's opening scene)
Derek Jacobi- Caron
Jean Martin- Wolenski
Ronald Pickup- The Forger
Eric Porter- Col. Rodin
Anton Rodgers- Bernard
Donald Sinden- Mallinson
Jean Sorel- Bastien-Thiry
David Swift- Montclair
Timothy West- Berthier
Differences from the original book
*The ending of the gunsmith's second scene leads many viewers to believe the Jackal kills him, even though his fate is left ambiguous. (In the film's unofficial 1997 remake, "The Jackal", the Jackal does kill the gunsmith, possibly leading to the confusion.)
*In the movie the Jackal is involved in a car accident and takes the other car, although it is not explained how he manages to keep from being mauled by a savage dog in the second car-nor does it explain how he manages to move the dead driver to his own wrecked car or the fate of the dog.
*The OAS leaders played a much more prominent part in the novel than the film.
*The French Ministers have remarkable and clear British accents.
Also, in a minor historical inaccuracy, Colonel
Jean Bastien-Thiry, leader of the August 22nd, 1962 attempt on de Gaulle's life, is claimed to be the head of the OAS. Though Bastien-Thiry was indeed in charge of planning the real-life plot, he was not an official member of the organization.
Besides Michael Caine (as mentioned above),
Jack Nicholsonand Roger Moorewere both considered for the title role.
The French government was extremely helpful in the filming of the movie, providing soldiers and use of exclusive locations for the filming of the final
Liberation Daysequence. Fred Zinnemann wrote that Adrian Cayla-Legrand, the actor who played de Gaulle, was mistaken by several Parisians for the real thing during filming - though de Gaulle had been dead for two years prior to the film's release.
Some critics have seen visual and thematic similarities between the film and the
John F. Kennedy assassination. These include the shot of the exploding watermelon during the Jackal's target practice, the man being carted away by an ambulance during the parade (recalling Jerry Belknap, the infamous Dealey Plaza epileptic), and the presence of a magazine with JFK's picture on the cover in the hotel scene. Also, the setting is in August 1963, three months before Kennedy's death. Save the last, these were not evident in the original novel, and were probably inserted by the director, Fred Zinnemann.
The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Film Editing.
Although the plot is set in 1962/1963, filmmakers made no efforts to avoid showing car models whose production began later, for example
Peugeot 504(built from 1968) or in the Genoa set a Fiat 128(1969).
The Day of the Jackal" (novel)
* "The Jackal" (1997 film)
The Jackal (fictional character)
* Assassinations in fiction
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