Day of the Jackal, The (1973)

The Day of the Jackal (1973), directed by Fred Zinnemann.

An experienced English assassin is hired to kill French President Charles de Gaulle. It runs like an "assassination procedural" thriller, with both the Jackal and the police forces methodically developing their plans and seeking their goals. He knows they are on to him, but he won't give up. Both sides have setbacks, both recover. Who finishes first, the fox or the hounds?

We know how it must end. Who are we rooting for? Edward Fox is cool but not cruel, meticulously professional. He leaves an unfortunate number of bodies behind him.

Although the story is fiction, the incidents in the first section are actual history: the OAS, a group of disgruntled army officers, tried several times to assassinate de Gaulle, including the incident shown where they machine-gun his motorcade. Leader Jean Bastien-Thiry ("No French soldier will raise his rifle against me") was the last person in France executed by firing squad.

The French government assisted with production. Lavish use of real locations in France, Italy, Austria, and England.

Brief soundtrack. Most of the film is without music, emphasizing a documentary tone.

Loosely remade as The Jackal (1997) with Bruce Willis.

On DVD, poor quality. Where's the Blu-ray? [Later: Arrow issued a nice Blu-ray upgrade with prominent natural grain].

I recently came across this list: Akira Kurosawa’s Top 100 Films, where he is limited to one film per director. For this film he says:


The method the movie follows with very composed eyes is how the hero carries out every preparation for an assassination one by one, so to speak, without fat, I mean, brief and clear. A very thrilling touch.