Black Sunday: A quite entertaining political thriller.

Black SundayBlack Sunday by John Frankenheimer on Paramount Channel (CanalSat)
My rating: 6 out of 10 stars

Terrorist organization Black September is planning an attack on the United States. A woman called Dahlia is the one overseeing the operation. She was in the Middle East with the other members of the organization, discussing the operation when some Israelis came in; the leader, Major Kobakov had his gun on her but didn’t shoot her. Kobakov then informed the US what they found. Though they don’t know what their operation is, Kobakov assures them that it will be devastating. So, with FBI man, Corley, they try to find out what it is before it’s too late. But they both have different ways of doing things, and since Kobakov is the visitor, he is warned to watch it. Dahlia’s “partner in crime” is Michael Lander, a Vietnam P.O.W., who is psychologically scarred by that experience, thus making him very susceptible to her machinations.

I read the book that the movie is based on a long time ago back in the times when books by definition where made out of paper. I honestly do not remember much from the book except that I thought it was a good enough book. I also generally like Robert Shaw as an actor so when I saw that this movie was given on Paramount Channel I decided to record it for a rainy day. Well, yesterday was not a rainy day but there was not really anything else on that I felt like watching so I put this one on.

It is a fairly good movie. At least up until the end. It is a pretty much standard political thriller with the rather common basic story of a couple of terrorists planning a terrorist strike on US soil and a couple of good guys trying to stop them. Of course one of the good guys are a foreign operative with less restrained ideas about how to achieve the desired outcome. There is nothing hugely inventive about the story, although I guess it might have felt a bit more fresh in 1977 when the movie was produced, but it is mostly well implemented.

I do like that the movie, as is all to often the case, does not try to “explain” the terrorists and justify their actions, at least not too much. Compared to many movie of this type (and that is why I generally do not like these movies) this one is rather neutral in terms of political sides. There are a few outbursts of “why” but in general the movie focuses on the preparations and the chase.

As I wrote, in general the movie is well implemented. The acting of both Robert Shaw and Marthe Keller, who plays the female terrorist, is not at all bad. Maybe not Oscars material but definitely not bad and, as I also wrote before, I do like Robert Shaw. For most of the movie we get to follow the preparations of the terrorists and the work of the good guys trying to unravel the plot and stop it. A few sporadic outbursts of action breaks the otherwise not so fast pace of the movie. Classical thriller material and quite enjoyable to watch.

Unfortunately by the time we come to the ending it appears like the classical Hollywood I-do-not-have-clue-but-lets-throw-in-some-action people took over and it drags down an otherwise fairly well-made movie. Once the plan is uncovered the movie turns into just another let’s-spot-the-faults Hollywood B-movie. For instance, once it is clear that there is a severe threat, why is the stadium not evacuated? At least they should have gotten the president out. Given the situation why did they not have an officer or agent on the blimp in the first place? Why did Kobakov have to run all over the stadium to talk to the TV-guys, there should have been someone with communication in their hut already? And then we have the blimp chase. There was a potential threat to the president and all they could muster was a single police chopper that got shot down and another chopper that they hijacked? Kobakov laying on the blimp fumbling to get hold of the hook was also dragged out in absurdum.

As I wrote I do not remember much details from the book but this ending sure dragged down the movie for me. It is at least a star off for the ending. Still, most of the movie was enjoyable.

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