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The Parallax View (1974) Review

I’m a sucker for a solid political thriller. When everyone was somewhat lukewarm to the release of Official Secrets last year, I listed it well within my top ten of the year. Had I ever written such an article it would’ve appeared there, I’m sure of it. So, when it comes to political thrillers directed by established directors who have created some of my favourites, you can expect my expectations to be somewhat high. From the director of All the President’s Men comes The Parallax View, a political thriller starring Warren Beatty that preceded the Academy Award winning work of Alan. J Pakula.

The Parallax View starts as it means to go on. Confused, drifting in and out of relative interest like no other film before it. At times the film feels rightly ambiguous, offering the audience a tunnelled vision of events that will ruminate for the entire viewing as they digest what they’ve just seen. Other parts of the film are so inconsistently vague in the false pretence of being mysterious that it feels more obnoxious than anything else. Certainly not clumsy, but at times I was left wondering whether or not I was following the story, and to give credit to The Parallax View, it has no time for stragglers or those who need an extra breath to get their bearings.

It doesn’t help that the unconvincing lead role from Warren Beatty lacks the charisma or energy to provide us any real hook to the events of the story. Beatty has a solid stance in cinema, despite featuring in only a small handful of films and not really managing to provide anything else outside of a few well remembered roles. He’s a legend of the industry, and this is more or less my first experience with him in a leading performance. Playing the sulky, boring journalist Joseph Frady, we follow his light escapades and investigative journalism into the assassination of a Senator.

Maybe I watched this film at the wrong time in my life. We live in culturally tense times to say the least, with politics and world news essentially unavoidable. The Parallax View looks to dive headfirst into the ideas and ruminations of a New World Order. It’s a certainly interesting topic to put into any film, but it isn’t handled with the care necessary to pull off such a stunt. Beatty traversing in and around the organisation seemingly by accident litters the latter half of the film in some truly boring build-up to an otherwise underwhelming set piece that closes the film out rather suddenly.

The Parallax View struggles from the get go, not entirely captivating its audiences with any likeable characters, nor does it provide any reason for us to invest in its frankly withering storyline. Not even the often-engaging direction of Pakula helps out, and instead we’re left dwindling away in a film that, if handled ever so slightly differently, could’ve been an absolutely brilliant piece.

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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