The Parallax View (1974)

I keep getting asked to suggest a relatively obscure movie from the 1970’s that received critical acclaim and is worth watching for movie buffs seeking to broaden their film knowledge.

The movie I would like to recommend is “The Parallax View,” a political thriller directed by Alan J. Pakula.

The plot follows an investigative journalist named Joe Frady (portrayed by Warren Beatty) who is determined to unravel the mystery behind a political assassination witnessed by him. The deeper he digs, the more mysterious and disturbing the conspiracy becomes, leading him straight into an enigmatic organization named the Parallax Corporation.

What makes “The Parallax View” stand out is its dark, atmospheric setting and the eerie mood created by the unpredictable storyline and the movie’s score by Michael Small. While it is a slow-burning thriller at times, the brilliant cinematography and tight editing keep the tension high throughout the movie.

Moreover, Warren Beatty’s performance as Joe Frady is exceptional, and he nails the character’s vulnerable, cynical yet determined persona. The supporting cast also delivers impressive performances, including Hume Cronyn, William Daniels, and Paula Prentiss.

“The Parallax View” may not be as well-known as other political thrillers from the 1970s, but it is undoubtedly one of the best movies of its genre, and worth checking out for those who appreciate suspenseful, thought-provoking cinema.

Plot Summary

“The Parallax View” follows Joe Frady (played by Warren Beatty), a journalist who stumbles upon a political assassination while covering an event. He starts investigating the case himself but is unable to uncover the truth. Soon after, several witnesses of the assassination are killed in mysterious circumstances, leading Joe to believe that the murders may be connected to the assassination.

Enraged by the lack of attention given to the murders and desperate for answers, Joe goes underground and starts tracing the shady organization behind the killings. He soon discovers that the murders are part of a more extensive conspiracy orchestrated by the Parallax Corporation, which recruits sociopaths and turns them into assassins.

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As Joe digs deeper into the organization, he becomes a part of their recruitment process and gains access to confidential information about their methods and motives. But the closer he gets to the truth, the more apparent it becomes that he is in grave danger, and the corporation will stop at nothing to protect its interests.

Without spoiling the film’s climax, the Parallax View is a gloomy, unsettling, and highly suspenseful thriller that explores themes of manipulation, power, and corruption.

Warren Beatty as Joe Frady

Warren Beatty’s performance as Joe Frady in “The Parallax View” is widely regarded as one of the highlights of the movie. Beatty delivers a nuanced and complex performance as a cynical journalist who is initially skeptical of conspiracy theories but becomes more paranoid the deeper he delves into his investigation.

The character of Joe Frady is not a typical heroic protagonist but a flawed and damaged individual with an ambiguous moral compass. Beatty’s portrayal brings out the character’s vulnerability, resilience and determination against all odds.

Throughout the film, Beatty gives a restrained performance that conveys his character’s mental state with subtlety, while effectively conveying the paranoia, desperation and fear of someone who is knowingly putting themselves in grave danger.

Beatty’s performance is particularly notable in the final scenes of the movie, where he is set up for a staged assassination attempt that ends with a tragic ending. The scene not only showcases Beatty’s acting prowess but also leaves a lasting impression of the film’s haunting climax.

In short, Warren Beatty’s portrayal of Joe Frady in “The Parallax View” is a masterclass in acting and contributes significantly to the movie’s success as a gripping political thriller.

How it compares to other political thrillers

“The Parallax View” (1974) stands out amongst popular political thrillers for its distinct moody atmosphere, unpredictable storyline and a nuanced portrayal of its main character by Warren Beatty.

Compared to other political thrillers of that era, “The Parallax View” has a slower pace that builds tension with subtlety and keeps the audience on the edge throughout the movie. The storyline is also more complex and nuanced than most political thrillers, which tend to simplify political conspiracies. “The Parallax View” is not a straightforward story but presents ambiguous situations, which challenge the viewer’s perception and moral compass.

While other popular political thrillers like “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) and “All the President’s Men” (1976) are well-known for their depiction of political power and corruption, “The Parallax View” portrays a much darker and more cynical view of political assassination and the manipulation of public opinion techniques.

Furthermore, Warren Beatty’s portrayal of Joe Frady is much more nuanced and realistic than some of the more conventional caricatures of other political thriller protagonists. Beatty shows his character’s vulnerabilities and takes the audience on a journey with his character into the darkest corners of the conspiracy.

Overall, “The Parallax View” is a gripping political thriller that stands out from other popular titles of the genre for its unique style, nuanced story and character development.

What some movie fans might not like about the film

A few common reasons why some movie fans might not like “The Parallax View” (1974) are:

1. The film’s moody atmosphere and slow pacing may not appeal to fans of action-packed thrillers who prefer a more fast-paced and exciting plot.

2. Some viewers may find the storyline to be too complex and ambiguous, making it difficult to follow the plot and engage with the story.

3. The film’s political themes and cynical worldview may not be for everyone and may turn away some viewers who prefer less controversial and politically charged movies.

4. The movie’s ending may be unsatisfying to some viewers who prefer conclusive and straightforward plot resolutions.

However, it is important to note that many people consider these aspects of the “The Parallax View” to be strengths. The slow-burning pace, complex storyline, and political themes are what make it stand out from other movies of the same genre, and Warren Beatty’s performance enhances its viewing experience. Despite its challenging and at times unsettling elements, “The Parallax View” is widely regarded as one of the best political thrillers of its time and is still revered by critics and fans alike.

What are your thoughts?

I'd love to know what you think about this movie review. What I'd love to hear more than anything is whether you know movies that are similar to this that me and other fans might like. Please leave a comment!

1 thought on “The Parallax View (1974)”

  1. Like me, some women might not like the movie because of its portrayal of women as secondary and insignificant characters.

    Female characters in the movie have limited screen time and are often portrayed as sexual objects or plot devices to advance the male lead character’s story. For example, the female love interest of the main character largely serves as a romantic interest, while other female characters appear in traditional roles, like secretaries or the wives of male characters.

    Moreover, the movie contains scenes of violence and suspense that female viewers like me may find disturbing or concerning. The movie’s dark and paranoid atmosphere and unsettling depiction of politics and conspiracy may also make it unappealing to some viewers.

    However, it’s worth mentioning that there are also female viewers who may enjoy the movie’s suspenseful storyline and critique of political power structures, and it’s ultimately up to individual taste and preference.


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