Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Terrorists (1974)

While it’s fun to see a thriller in which Sean Connery uses his brains to outwit bad guys, rather than his fists or 007 gadgets, The Terrorists isn’t clever enough to justify the genteel approach. Despite naturalistic location photography by the great Sven Nykvist and a muscular score by the reliable Jerry Goldsmith, the storyline is too ordinary, and the storytelling is too clunky. For no particular reason, the narrative takes place in a fictional country called Scandinavia, even though nearly all of the actors use their own British accents. After a group of terrorists take the British ambassador to Scandinavia hostage, the country’s top cop, Nils Tahlvik (Connery), is tasked with defusing the situation. Then, when a second group of terrorists—led by British gunman Ray Petrie (Ian McShane)—hijacks a passenger jet just as the plane is landing in a Scandinavian airport, things get complicated. Petrie’s group plans to use the plane as a getaway vehicle for the group holding the ambassador hostage, threatening to blow up the plane (and its passengers) if they’re not allowed to do so. For much of the picture, Connery paces around the exterior of the British embassy and the halls of the airport, trying to figure out attack routes and exit strategies; he also fends off political pressure from British authorities and local heavyweights, since the two countries involved have vastly different agendas. Some of this stuff is interesting, in a procedural sort of way, and McShane invests his underwritten role with a bit of suave menace. Additionally, the movie’s pulse rises during the second half of the picture, as the story winds toward a far-fetched twist ending, and the lack of gunplay throughout much of the film forces theater-trained Finnish director Caspar Wrede—here directing the last of his five feature films—to conjure tension from circumstance instead of pyrotechnics. (Like Connery, he does what he can with limited resources.) Still, one need merely look at the following year’s Dog Day Afternoon to see how many terrific opportunities for hostage-situation suspense the makers of The Terrorists missed.

The Terrorists: FUNKY

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