The Parallax View opens with an unforgettable sequence in which a ambitious U.S. Senator is assassinated on the top of the Space Needle, subsequently followed by a Government commission claiming that the Senator's death was the work of a single man's warped mind. Fast-forward a few years as we are introduced to Joseph Frady (Warren Beatty), an intelligent, yet flawed news reporter who barely missed being on the space needle that day. He is contacted by Lee Carter (Paula Prentiss), his ex-girlfriend and reporter who was present for the assassination. She is borderline delirious fearing for her life, since all the witnesses of the Senator's shooting keep ending up dead. Without going into too much detail, The Parallax View is a conspiracy thriller in which Joseph begins to uncover a dark secret about the true nature of the assassination, learning that the Senator's death was just the latest in a much larger conspiracy. The first thing about this film that struck me was it's fantastic cinematography. This alone creates a brooding, voyeuristic atmosphere, which really elevates it above most of the political thrillers out there. The camera moves feel more like a surveillance camera than any type of cinematic endeavor, slowly panning left and right- following Joseph as he investigates, informing the viewer that Joseph is being watched by this secret corporation. There are lots of extremely wide angled compositions as well, particularly when Joseph is on screen, as if to suggest that someone is watching him from far away. A sequence taking place on an amusement park train in which Joseph gains information from a character, is a great example of this. The camera routinely changes it's point of reference between the conversation between Joseph and the informant (tight shots), and this observer (extremely wide-angle shots). The direction is extremely confident, in its decisions whether it's holding on to a particular shot longer than is typical or having something happen off camera. Pakula really deserves a lot of credit for this one. Our lead character, Joseph Frady is well designed, serving the story well, in that we are routinely reminded of his bouts with alcoholism and mischief, with his editor at one point referring to him as "creatively irresponsible". If you are a fan of Political Thrillers or Conspiracy flicks, this is a must watch film.
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