The Conversation

Tagline : Harry Caul is an invader of privacy. The best in the business. He can record any conversation between two people anywhere. So far, three people are dead because of him.

Runtime : 113 mins

Genre : Crime Drama Mystery

Vote Rating : 7.5/10

Budget : 1.6 million $ USD

Revenue : 4.4 million $ USD


Movie Website


Reviews for this movie are available below.

Plot : Surveillance expert Harry Caul is hired by a mysterious client's brusque aide to tail a young couple. Tracking the pair through San Francisco's Union Square, Caul and his associate Stan manage to record a cryptic conversation between them. Tormented by memories of a previous case that ended badly, Caul becomes obsessed with the resulting tape, trying to determine if the couple is in danger.

Cast Members

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Reviews

Unfortunately, it appears with every passing day that the great American paranoid political thrillers of the 60's and 70's, with its strongest work bookended by 'The Manchurian Candidate' (eerily foreseeing the JFK assassination) and 'All the President's Men' (placing a coda of closure on the Watergate scandal), simply haven't aged a day, and are as timely as ever in conceptualizing the palpable fear that ordinary citizens have in those in control of their destinies, namely the police and government of their communities. It's the American ideal that any person born, regardless of circumstances, is in control of their destiny, and that with hard work, guile and determination, can make something of himself. Whether that was ever the case is questionable, but it seems more than ever that the people in power are in control of way more than we could ever suppose, or would ever want to know. This was a nice smaller-scale film that, incredulously, Coppola was able to dish up in a run that is one of the finest a director would ever have, up there with Hitchcock's in the late 50's-early 60's, and Melville a decade later. It's definitely excellent work by Hackman (along with his Popeye Doyle in the pair of great 'French Connection' movies), and is up there with the greatest dissertations ever about the double-edged sword of surveillance, namely De Palma's 'Blow Out' and Antonioni's 'Blow-Up'. As a human being, I only wish this film wasn't as important as it is.

"The Conversation" is a tense thriller that explores how paranoia can take over all aspects of everyday life once something disturbing is discovered. Paid to eavesdrop on two people in a public place, Harry Caul ( Gene Hackman ) records the conversation and after some work produces a tape with clarity for his client. However Harry is riddled with guilt from a previous job that led to the people involved being hurt and both a woman and child murdered. This leads him to question his actions and clearly the job he is doing. Despite colleagues, friends and suppliers of surveillance equipment looking up to Harry as one of the best in the business he clearly has lost his edge and his way. This is shown over a period of time through various actions. His flat is easily broken into by his landlord and his mail read. Harry is easily duped at a trade show by a competitor who bugs him with a pen and his girlfriend states "once I saw you up by the staircase , hiding and watching for a whole hour". Meanwhile despite his phone being supposedly unlisted both his landlord and his client have the number and to his surprise call him. After listening many times to the tapes of the conversation, Harry believes that the two involved fear they could be hurt or even killed for their actions. However a trick is a trick or job is a job ( according to his girlfriend/ escort ) but riddled with guilt he fails to deliver. Once again he shows his unprofessionalism by allowing the tapes to be stolen ( by his girlfriend/ escort ) As the film concludes it becomes clear that conversations can be misinterpreted and may not be as obvious as first thought. Harry's paranoia is compounded even more once he discovers the truth behind "The Conversation," which results in a very satisfying ending.

Gene Hackman is superb here as "Harry" - a super-efficient surveillance expert who discovers in the line of duty that a couple he is monitoring might well be about to be murdered. It becomes clear that the couple - Cindy Williams & Frederic Forrest are having an affair but that is just the tip of the conspiratorial iceberg in this tautly scripted/directed effort from Francis Ford Coppola. It's a slow burn, at times it certainly does drag, but the subtleties with which the cat and mouse swap places, alongside some great supporting roles from John Cazale and Harrison Ford make it quite an enthralling watch - and certainly one of Hackman's best, most emotionally charged, performances.

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