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A popular senator is shot by a waiter at the Seattle Space Needle. Three years later Lee (Prentiss), a television reporter who was on the scene, goes to newspaper reporter Joe Frady (Beatty) frightened for her life. Assassination witnesses have been systematically killed, she says, and
Lee knows that she's next. Frady discounts her fears as irrational paranoia, but after her supposed suicide, doubt creeps into his mind. He begins investigating the story and uncovers a huge conspiracy involving the mysterious "Parallax Corporation," a secret company that recruits assassins to
eliminate troublemakers on their "list." Alan J. Pakula's taut direction maintains a neat balance between the real and the perceived; things are not what they appear to be. He presents disorienting shots and editing patterns with characters often filmed behind glass or curtains, allowing only a
partial look at the whole scene. The most compelling aspects are of course the political and historical overtones. The fictional assassination was a deliberate attempt to suggest a possible explanation for the John F. Kennedy assassination. Using historical parallels (the photographs implying a
second gunman at Dallas; the fact that many of the assassination witnesses died mysteriously in the years following 1963), Pakula created a possible, though fictional, explanation in a film steeped in American symbolism. The film was released in June 1974, after the studio had let the
controversial work sit for several months. This is one of the best political thrillers of the 1970s.