Welp, like the rest of you, I can't praise The Parallax View enough. A top-notch thriller with good acting... or is it? When I first watched it oh so long ago, I was too young to appreciate the post-Nixon governmental machinations, the rise of corporate power, and not to mention what I was missing because of the ol' Pan and Scan days. Seeing it again all these years in HD and letterboxed was pretty excellent. Very crisp. They really made good use of the extra-wide frame, for one.
My main gripe is ... SPOILER ALERT. My main gripe is the Parallax Corporation. They haven't quite worked out their omnipotence yet. For the most part, they're great about tying up the loose ends. The one guy thought he was safe on his yacht with his bodyguard, but they managed to get him. Warren Beatty's character thought he was mailing a tape in secret, but they managed to track it down and neutralize its recipient. And yet... in his undercover work, Beatty does manage to score a few points.
Beatty plays a reporter for a Seattle newspaper. The office he works in isn't terribly busy. Well, Seattle was a much smaller town back then. There's a great reveal of the Space Needle at the beginning of the movie. Between Parallax and 1985's Bombs Away!, the Space Needle isn't used often enough in movies as far as I'm concerned. He can't get in to an exclusive party for a senator that the Space Needle's hosting. Remember, he's playing a reporter, so Warren Beatty the Actor can't get in. Warren Beatty the Star can go anywhere he damn well pleases.
Suddenly... OMG! The movie senator's been shot! Fortunately, our real-life senators are much safer these days. We then see a panel of powerful D.C. men concluding that a lone gunman acted alone against the senator. Most of the reviews consider this a slam on the Watergate investigation, but I saw it as more JFK than that.
Flash forward to three years later. Beatty's one-night stand gets interrupted by an old flame... at least, I got the impression she was an old flame. The one-night stand was a contractual obligation on Beatty's part, much like the hook-up in Three Days of the Condor for Redford. The old flame is Lee Carter, played by Paula Prentiss... damn, but I gotta stop falling in love with women from the 70s. She expresses concern to Beatty that she's going to end up dead, and gives a pretty convincing case in that regard. Beatty's skeptical, and rather fed up with her in general. "You son of a bitch! You don't care!" she says, crying. Next scene: dead. Dayamn, that was quick! Also, I gotta stop talking back to the TV.
Beatty thinks he's got an interesting story for the paper. He'd rather not do the boring stuff like covering city council meetings. Brother, I've been there! Beatty's got a lead that takes him to Bung Hole, Washington... I'm sorry, that's not the name of the town, but it might as well be. Beatty goes to a bar and quickly gets into a fight with a big guy, as David Letterman might refer to him. The sequences in this small town lead to some pretty good action sequences. They really go for it with the bar fight, I must admit! And as with Jack Nicholson in Chinatown, Beatty gets entangled in some water-based intrigue. He ends up fighting with the big cop of the small town, and they end up floating a bit down a river. The cop ends up dead and Beatty drives to this cop's house. There, he finds his first lead on the Parallax Corporation.
I dare not spoil the plot any more than I already have. Gosh! I must've admired it more than I thought. Well, the Alien screenwriter David Giler had a hand in it, so it's got to be good. One interesting part that provides an unintended glimpse into the past is Beatty's trip on a plane. I mean, he's able to just get on the plane, like it's a train or something! A stewardess comes up to him and says "That'll be $68.20." Imagine! Just walking on to a plane and paying in cash to the stewardess! Boy, those days weren't going to last long, and this movie might have had something to do with that... sorry, sPOILER ALERT. (I think I'll just leave that 's' as it is. See if anyone notices... hello? Anyone out there?)
One way in which the movie is prescient: Beatty gets a hold of the Parallax Corporation's entrance exam, which predicted the Target entrance exam. But I think Target had way way more questions on it; about 600, if memory serves! Also, who can forget the slide-show sequence with the flexible definitions of such core Jungian concepts as "mother," "home," "country," and "me," to name a few. Some pointed out that Zoolander did an homage to it, but I personally consider it an homage to the sequence in A Clockwork Orange where Alex imagines himself a vampire who's recently feasted, intercut with stock footage of $#!t blowing up real good. Am I alone on that? Probably.
So, to wrap up, as with Network, The Parallax View is a fine example of great 70s cinema, and it's got some future-proof ideas in it, but it's not without flaws. Also, there were a couple bad edits, mostly when Beatty's trailing the man with the suitcase. If there's a great outcry for it, I'll go back and pinpoint them in reference to the DVD. But in general, just as Network overestimated the assassinations on people because of lousy TV ratings, I personally feel that Parallax overestimated the attempts on the lives of presidential candidates and senators. Now, Democrats and small planes, that I can see. Seriously, stop using them, guys! Ron Brown, Paul Wellstone, I'm just saying.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan