I’ve made it no secret that I absolutely love a good spy movie. So when I found out Condor was showing at SXSW, and was a retelling of the Robert Redford classing Three Days of the Condor, but for TV, I was super excited. Not only did I get to see Condor, but I also got to check out their Condor House and interview the cast and creators during the festival. So follow us after the jump for the review and then keep an eye out for our coverage of those interviews and the Condor House!
Condor is the story of Joe Turner (Max Irons), an idealistic you CIA employee. He might be best described as an analyst, but essentially he works with a CIA think take that develops new and creative ways to protect Americans. His faith in the CIA is tested though when his uncle Bob Partridge (William Hurt) uses an algorithm he designed to find a potential terrorist on American soil, which it wasn’t designed for. This algorithm unfortunately gets Joe and his coworkers on the radar of those that are planning these attacks, namely the mysterious Nathan Fowler (Brendan Fraser) and his assassin colleague Joubert (Leem Lubany).
First things first, I have to say as a fan of the original I really love how they adapted the original. It takes a lot to adapt a story-line about the grey areas the CIA operates in, especially to update it to present day. But Jason Smilovic (Lucky Number Slevin, and War Dogs) and Todd Katzberg work together to adapt the tone well while making the main point about terrorism. I can’t get into too much detail on how it factors in without ruining some of the twists of the first episode, but suffice to say I think it works well. My biggest issues with the narrative of the show really are just minor things that I think the movie did better, but as not everyone knows it that’s ok. I especially liked how they changed the role of Sam from the original to this version. I just hope it can keep that intrigue up and deception up that they showed here, as its easy to start strong.
The casting was something I was very interested in going in and after the first episode I feel safe saying that they did a solid job with it. Irons does a good American accent and makes for a likeable and believable leading man. Its hard to take on a character defined by someone like Robert Redford, but he owns the character’s traits while also making Joe Turner his own. The next biggest lead, at least going forward more than in this first episode, is Joubert. In the original the character is male and played by Max Von Sydow and he is one of the most important parts of the film. Lubany really redefines the character as even more of a hidden enemy and a wolf in sheep’s clothing which seems to be making for some very interesting dynamics.Kristoffer Polaha takes on the role of Sam, which as I mentioned is very different and bigger from the original. But he really adds a lot with how he plays off Joe and what he means to the plot. Fraser wasn’t bad at all, and I usually like him, but I’m also having a hard time reading his character in this episode. But they did say in the Q&A after the screening that we will learn a lot more about him in future episodes. William Hurt gets some good scenes in this first episode and he’s as good as I always see him, and I really look forward to more from him. Lastly is Bob Balaban as Reuel Abbot, a high ranking CIA member. We don’t get a lot of him here, but anyone familiar with Balaban will be happy to know he should apparently be a much bigger part of the show as it progresses.
Overall I couldn’t find much to dislike here, even though I kind of expected to. The performances and narrative are strong enough and it peaks my espionage interest quite a bit. However, its worth noting that its biggest hinderance is being on the AT&T Audience Network, which as far as I’ve been able to find can only be watched on DirectTV or with a DirectTV Now subscription which runs $35 a month. With that in mind, and how much harder that will make it for me and others like me without a cable/DirecTV subscription to watch it, I have to drop that rating a bit because that is just kind of absurd in this day and age.