A surveillance expert becomes increasingly more
paranoid as he struggles with a crisis of conscience.
The Conversation (1974)
Written and Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Starring Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Teri Garr, Harrison Ford, Frederic Forrest, Cindy Williams, Robert Duvall
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay,
The Conversation is a slow-burn thriller that deals with themes of paranoia and moral duty. Gene Hackman delivers a subtle but strong performance as surveillance expert Harry Caul, the most paranoid son of a bitch I've ever seen. He builds his own equipment, never lets anyone see the plans, and he bugs people for a living. But one day, he gets a job to record a wife cheating on her husband, and what he records may just sign their death warrant. Or possibly his. It all depends on how Harry handles the situation, and he takes it farther than most would even dare.
Harry is recruited by a mysterious director (Duvall, in a small cameo) to surveil his wife and her possible lover. Harry does, and brings it to the director's assistant Martin Stett (a pre-Star Wars Harrison Ford). But Harry, being a devout Catholic, has a crisis of conscience and wants to help the wife, even possibly save her. I won't lie, the film starts to drag a bit in the middle once Harry has a bizarre dream straight out of a David Lynch flick. But it picks back up when Harry meets the director and make his decision.
In the end, Harry's paranoia has gotten so bad that you don't know if he's really being bugged or if he's lost his mind. Coppola managed to crank this one out in between the Godfathers, and while it isn't nearly as great as those two, it's still a solid, tense thriller about the growing fear of surveillance and Big Brother.