The Day of the Jackal





Calmly striding through it all is The Jackal himself, a professional assassin whose life is divided into strategies for survival and execution and which he lives with ruthless calculation and a hint of his feeling of freedom and superiority operating beyond God and Law. He is a classic villain, a mixture of sympathetic outsider and repellent, almost inhuman predator. His flaunting of society's taboos and hidden darkness merely demonstrates their existence (the gifted arms manufacturer who barely thinks about the consequences of his work, the sleazy photographer who thinks too much about the consequences but tries to exploit them for his benefit, the bored rich housewife who plays sexual games which backfire horribly, the innocent homosexual who is a victim only by dint of his poor choice of companion).


It is a classic dichotomy with classic elements of well worn plots, and Zinnemann, the Hollywood pro, matches himself to the task of its direction with a perfectly matched classic style. The forces of good and evil play their dangerous game in an increasingly layered political and social world which cares less for them as people than it does for what the represent in the way of threat or benefit.


Ultimately, The Jackal and his pursuer are the opposite sides of the coin, and while Lonsdale's presence at the burial does not suggest mutual admiration, it is a kind of world weary acknowledgement that this is the life they both chose to lead and which has brought them to their expected ends, where they both remain as anonymous and unacknowledged as each other. There is nothing surprising in this, and it is not heavy handed. It is simple, understandable and familiar, and this last is perhaps the greatest barb of all.







  Main films                                         Page 1

The day of the jackal