Film Reviews Cat

The Conversation (1974)


Harry Caul is specialized in surveillance and tries to find out what a young couple is saying and what they are worried about. 

The premise of a paranoid private surveillance expert that has an unlimited reach was maybe viable in the eyes of the audience during the 1970’s, but is totally wacky in 2021. Yes, there were deep surveillance problems with the NSA, but that was on a government, and institutional level. Not a private person that somehow buys military grade surveillance equipment for private jobs. It’s totally unrealistic that some private person buys all this stuff for… I don’t even know why. It could be the case that this was a very hot topic during the early 1970’s, and that it simply doesn’t hold up over time. There is nothing wrong with movies that ‘don’t hold up’ but it does become an issue here because the story itself is very monotonous, and it is an extremely ‘slow burn’. “The Conversation” is 113 minutes long, and after 65 minutes it still felt like I was watching an opening scene. Don’t get me wrong, the opening scene is very intriguing but as the film goes on it becomes… very strange, lost, boring, and wacky. One could even use the words childish because of how unrealistic it all is. Maybe it is the ‘childlike’ 1970’s mentality, or the ignorance regarding surveillance as a topic. Whatever it is, it doesn’t work in 2021. 

What makes this movie somewhat watchable is the amount of amazing actors. Gene Hackman is absolutely great, but even he can’t carry this entire film all by himself. I just started to think that this amazing cast might have taken on this job solely because Francis Ford Coppola is the writer, and director. If this wasn’t the case then I really doubt that any great actor would have taken on this script. However, I must admit that some of the dialogue was nice, and the characters felt original. I guess the bottom-line is that the story isn’t interesting enough to watch, not just because of the premise, but mainly because of the execution. 

Maybe you might say that I don’t understand the 1970’s era, and that back in the day this was THE movie to watch. However, I really don’t believe that because “The Godfather” (1972) was also directed and written by Francis Ford Coppola, and is still one of the best films ever made. I could continue to hypothesize why this film is not good, but that would be a waste of time in my opinion. 

The only good thing that came out of this movie, at least for me, is the interesting perspective of how technology merges with loneliness, and creates this kind of sexual, and non sexual voyeurism. We even see this explicitly in some of the scenes. The other interesting perspective is modern technology and paranoia. Therefore, there are some good elements in this movie. Additionally, this movie gave me that cold war feeling of spies, espionage, and modernity. It was just packaged incorrectly. And with “packaged” I mean plot, and premise.    

I don’t think that this needs a conclusion. Well… maybe one; I expected way more from Francis Ford Coppola as a writer in 1974. The final question I like to ask is why “The Conversation” is currently at a rating of 7.8/10 on Must be because of Francis Ford Coppola, and the amazing cast? Maybe… well… It must be otherwise I really start to doubt my own sanity.

Director: Francis Ford Coppola. Writer: Francis Ford Coppola

Gene HackmanHarry Caul
John CazaleStan
Allen GarfieldBernie Moran
Frederic ForrestMark
Cindy WilliamsAnn
Michael HigginsPaul
Elizabeth MacRaeMeredith (as Elizabeth Mac Rae)
Teri GarrAmy
Harrison FordMartin Stett
Mark WheelerReceptionist
Robert ShieldsThe Mime
Phoebe AlexanderLurleen

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