SXSW TV Review – Condor
First screened at the SXSW Film Festival and debuting on the AT&T Audience Network, Condor provides a new adaptation of the novel Six Days of the Condor by James Grady, as well as a different take on the film classic, Three Days of the Condor (1975). Expanding on both of these sources, Condor spends eight hour-long episodes telling the story of Joe Turner (Max Irons), a computer programmer or analyst for the CIA, who is unwittingly taken part in exposing a covert operation.
The first episode opens on the rocky desert of a Native American reservation in New Mexico. Nathan Fowler (Brendan Fraser) is digging a hole to bury a pile of dead prairie dogs. A man in a truck happens upon them, curious why they would be where so few go. After questions and answers, a woman exits Fowler’s waiting truck and slits the man’s throat. The entrance of Gabrielle Joubert (Leem Lubany) into the series is just a hint of what is to come. Joubert and Fowler travel back to a large containment tent where scientists are working on a virus of some sort. Considering the prairie dogs, it probably is a form of the plague.
Enter the main character, Joe Turner, who is not sure of himself or what he is doing for work. He appears to only have two friends, Adam (Kristoffer Polaha) and his wife Mae (Kristen Hager). While out for his morning jog, Joe is directed into a waiting van with Adam inside. It is here that the meat of the story begins as we see Joe brought into the CIA where he meets his Uncle Bob aka Bob Partridge (William Hurt) who is a higher up in the CIA. It seems that a computer program that Joe designed to be used on foreign soil is being used on people in the US. It selects individuals who may be involved in terrorist activity. Joe’s program has found a suspected terrorist in D.C., and he is possibly carrying a weapon of some sort to be used on a stadium full of people. Joe is conflicted by this breach of ethics by his uncle and the CIA, and he is not sure of the program’s effectiveness. After his indecisiveness, he returns home, only to be awoken later by his uncle with the news that his program did prevent an attack, a biological one.
With this terror attack, Joe returned to work at IEP Analytics with better focus but mystified about the origin of the biological weapon that was stopped. It is believed to be a form of a plague, which makes him check pharmaceutical stocks for anyone who was anticipating a run on medication or vaccine stockpiles. It is then that Joe is put on the radar of Nathan Fowler and the first episode of Condor reaches its climax.
The following day all hell breaks loose as every single person in IEP except Joe is killed by Joubert and Deacon Mailer (Angel Bonanni). Joe manages to escape a bullet while on a fire escape for a smoke break with his co-worker and run to the Metro. The first episode closes with Joubert eyeing him from the next subway car.
The first episode sets the tone for Condor, and it is one of intrigue and questions. There are things going on in the CIA that not all the higher-ups are aware of, especially Bob Partridge. With an exchange of words between Adam and Nathan, mostly dealing with the impending death of Joe and his co-workers, it is evident that the CIA is part of the bioterrorism take-down, but the end goal is not clear. Is it a plan for governmental disruption, political power, or a ploy for some to make money on the fears of others? This episode gets the ball rolling for the series and has already presented a myriad of plotlines.
The cherry on top for the series is the number of familiar faces, as well as new talent that has brought this new adaptation into the modern world. The switch of making Joubert a female in the television series should lead to applause as the formidable Leem Lubany rises to the occasion with a scary seriousness and determination not rivaled in the premiere episode. Brendan Fraser is a welcome face on the small screen, but his role as a devious, devoted citizen of whatever or whoever he follows allows the audience to see the actor in a different light.
It is always nice to see William Hurt in films or television series. He does not seem to stay with one type of genre or character. Uncle Bob toes the line between his job and protecting his nephew, which I assume will lead to some tough decisions in the episodes to come. Hurt is reunited with Max Irons again on the small screen after sharing the big screen in The Host. Irons has played roles in television series before, as well as many varied films, but has not had a big break in Hollywood. He is a talented actor, using his American accent and his running skills in Condor. He conveys the indecisiveness and conflicting nature of Joe Turner well, not just in his words, but in his body language in the quiet scenes. The inner turmoil is there, not being able to talk to anyone about his job other than to Adam and his uncle, and it is taking its toll. Unfortunately, with the ending, his job and his life are not going to get any easier since he is a man on the run for his life.
Condor is another television series in an already crowded form of media with shows new and old vying for viewers’ attention. Condor is not a binge-able series, with only one episode released a week on the AT&T Audience Network, and it is not available to stream online unless you have a subscription to DirectTV or other cable providers. This may hamper interest in the show, but those with an affinity to novel or the film version may seek out this series to see how it compares. Condor is well worth your time and is an intriguing beginning to a series.