Time: 113 mins.
Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Sound and Best Origina Screenplay.
SYNOPSIS: A paranoid and personally-secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will be murdered.
BOTTOM LINE: One of the strangest and most compelling thrillers I've seen in a very long time. It's taken me a while to gather my thoughts about this piece, which gets under your skin like a parasite. Hackman proves why he's one of the best actors of his generation with his portrayal of a paranoid surveillance expert whose work finally pushes him right over the edge. Harry Caul is an expert at his job, never allowing himself to be drawn into the situations he's paid to record.
Only this time, there's something sinister about the conversation between a young couple (played by Williams and Forest) that he just can't seem to shake. We're not privy to the entire conversation, so we, like Harry, are left to figure out whether the intention behind the line, "He'd kill us if he got the chance" is meant literally or figuratively. Since Harry doesn't know the reasons why he's taping these people, the potential for danger throws his mind into a tail spin he can't seem to pull out of. We're left wondering if Harry has gone off the deep end for good or if he's scared for a good reason.
The final third of the film treads this line tautly and carefully, playing both sides of the fence for maximum suspense. One would think a film about a man obsessed with a conversation would be slow and boring, however, this is anything but thanks to Hackman's brilliant performance. He's riveting as he unravels, forced to watch his greatest fears come to pass. Don't let the marquee names of Ford and Duvall fool you. Their roles are important, but small, leaving all the heavy acting work to Hackman. This is a character piece of the highest order, filled with betrayal, angst, suspense and surprises. An entrancing cinema experience.