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Oscars Challenge #48: The French Connection (1971) Movie Review

The French Connection poster

The Best Picture winners in the 1970s brought us terrific classics like The Godfather and its sequel, Rocky, Kramer vs. Kramer, etc. I won't be surprised if another classic joins the list. Plus, it is another crime thriller movie.

This is a movie popularly known because of its wild car chase scene. Surprisingly, it is also one of the greatest films ever made. Based on the 1969 book of the same name. The two main characters are based on real-life narcotics detectives.

We follow the investigation of detectives Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle and Buddy "Cloudy" Russo in New York City. After tailing a couple who are involved in dealing narcotics with mobsters. They discover that they are connected with several prominent people in the narcotics underworld. Popeye soon learns that there will be a massive shipment of heroin arriving in a couple of weeks. They also discover that the deal involves a French mob that will transport the drugs by hiding them inside a car. It will be a race against time as the two detectives try to intercept and prevent the deal while also fighting for their lives because their enemy won't go down quickly without a fight.

A film directed by William Friedkin. What's surprising is that after this action-packed crime thriller movie, he directed one of the first horror classics, The Exorcist, in 1973. The plot and characters of those two blockbuster hits are like heaven and hell.

French Connection

The movie stars the legendary Gene Hackman as Popeye and Roy Scheider as Cloudy. Both actors did a marvelous job. Some of the other characters are based on real-life people. I like that the two main characters were not introduced like perfect detectives. Instead, they get the job done correctly.

What makes this movie great are the action sequences that are unlike any other. The car chase sequence may not have been popularized back then, but the way it was executed is way ahead of its time. Those low-angle car shots simulate the speeding cars, making the suspense very exciting. Some of the car crashes in the movie are not expected. Not only that, the acting and the drama make you emotionally invested in every scene.

Car Chase Scene

I also like the way this movie is shot. Some hardly lit locations were shot to emphasize the drama and heaviness of the crime scenes. I think from 1971 until today, we can see that movies are shot differently and more modern.

The story is very fast-paced. If you don't pay attention, you might miss out on essential parts of the story. I honestly liked how the plot is paced. There are no unnecessary scenes or moments that could take away the deepness of the story. But because of that, I think the story lacks a little bit of that deepness. I prefer the story to be established appropriately. I find it okay, but I am not entirely blown by it.

One of the fun facts about this movie is that it featured the World Trade Center during its construction phase. The North Tower is completed, while the South Tower is almost done.

The Arrest

I am sure that the film's legacy is out of this world, just like how The Godfather started the baseline of gangster movies. It is truly one of those movies you are glad existed because maybe some action films we see today might not have lived. The French Connection might have challenged filmmakers to make their own stunt-filled car chase sequence and improve what it did. Even the great director Steven Spielberg was inspired by this film when he created Munich.

If you are looking for a movie that gets straight to the action without love stories or drama, this might be the one you are searching for. There are no unnecessary characters and plots, just plain action. If you are a fan of crime thrillers having a good cop versus some bad guys, check this out.

A very good 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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