Harry Caul is a secretive surveillance expert and is super paranoid about well everything. He becomes convinced that the young couple he is spying on are going to be murdered, this leads to him doubting his own conscience.
He owns his own electronic surveillance small business, building his own equipment and known to be one of the very best within the field. In his own personal life he is very private and does not really allow anyone to get close to him. The level of paranoia he suffers has to be linked to his work, he will only talk to clients from payphone and does not allow anyone into his apartment. People do not really know much about him as a man and he spends a lot of time playing his saxophone along to jazz records. Even the woman he is seeing Amy, knows nothing about him.
The latest job with his business associate Frank is to record the private discussions of a young couple as they meet in a crowded and noisy Union Square. This is not an easy task at all and something they have to spend a lot of time working on. Harry only knows the client as The Director and that certainly adds to the thrilling nature of it all. This has all came from a previous job where he was extremely guilty that his recordings led to the murders of three people.
I guess one main thing that this film manages to highlight is that listening to conversations that you have no idea about the meaning or things behind them can turn out very badly. Without the full backstory or meanings you really have no idea what it could be about. This is something we witness with Harry as he must separate the tapes and different conversations that were being picked up that same day. Kinda like the Chinese whispers theme where when you hear something over and over and passed across different people it all changed and becomes something else.
Even after he was warned by the directors assistant not to get too involved and look into everything more than he was required to he could not help it at all. Leading him down the totally wrong path, well actually maybe not totally wrong. Just the wrong way round as it turned out.
Gene Hackman is rather outstanding in this film, I mean I feel I think and then say that after every film I watch him in. Although I will say that his character being 42 was something that made me think wow 42 year olds in 1974 looked really old! Isn’t that such a joy of older films? Let’s also give him the amazing fact that he learnt how to play the saxophone for this role, I seriously love anything like that. I was surprised that he was not Oscar nominated as I really do think he was on another level throughout the film. Such an edgy and impressive performance.
John Cazale in support was enjoyable as well, something I have noticed is just how unbelievably strong his short but successful filmography was. I had no idea Harrison Ford was in the film before watching it, so it was certainly a nice surprise when he popped up. Not a big role but impressive nonetheless. Then Robert Duvall not even being credited for his role either, but I guess that makes a little bit of sense given the plot.