A pair of NYC cops in the Narcotics Bureau stumble onto a drug smuggling job with a French connection.
I’m writing this review about a week after watching the film, so some of the particulars have been lost, but re-thinking about it now, the awe I was left with still sticks. The French Connection won the Oscar for Best Picture back in 1971. “Classic” might be a word that comes up to describe The French Connection, and especially compared to modern thrillers “classic” (being synonymous here with “old”) is an apt description. A distinction, and a big reason The French Connected, well, connected with me, is “classic” and “old” are not “dated.” Visually the film is of the 1970s era, but story/pace/character-wise it lives up to some of the best.
One big drag I seem to hit with older films is the pace and editing of the film. It was a much slower style before today’s frenetic shaky-cam style dominated our zeitgeist. A lot of that was for practical reasons as cameras the size of rooms couldn’t be moved easily and longer shots helped audiences get a grasp at what was going on – long before norms of cinema and editing became commonplace. Even amongst slow edits (“older” films) there can be a drastic difference. For example, films like Mutiny on the Bounty or Gentleman’s Agreement from 1935 and 1947 respectively were still able to captivate me, regardless of the style of the film. A word I used was “energy” and that’s a good way to describe what occured with The French Connection. Pacing can feel slow, but the film never lacked for energy. In fact, longer drawn-out shots even built up the suspense as we see Detectives “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) tail several drug dealers through the streets of New York. You were kept in a constant state of fear and curiosity of what would happen next and that’s what kept The French Connection interesting.
Despite how much I enjoyed The French Connection and using the “classic” moniker to describe the film, I would shy away from saying The French Connection is one of the all-time greats. It has made it’s way onto AFI’s Top 100 list (clocking in a 93 on the 2007 list) and that might be appropriate. For those of you who may not tend to like older films, I’d say give The French Connection a try and you might be pleasantly surprised. For those who do tend to like older “classic” films, well, you’ve probably already seen this.
5 out of 5