The capitalist machine is presented in a swift preamble, a dormant stockroom coming to life via dissolve as the dollar plummets, followed in short order by a gag from Vidor's The Fountainhead (the diminutive mogul posing in his office with Empire State verticals in the background). Alan J. Pakula trains the x-ray camera on the financial system, where the "illusion of safety" is thoroughly demolished under the guise of a romantic thriller. Blinking digits (lit up like an electronic beehive) are revealed as windows on the side of the World Trade Center, the camera tracks into one of them just in time to catch the killing of the chairman and the disappearance of the McGuffin; the Hollywood-star-turned-corporate-widow (Jane Fonda) receives the news at a marine-themed gala soiree, with couples dancing under the beady eye of a whale. Money is a horrid thing to follow and a charming thing to meet, Henry James tells us, and Fonda is soon being courted by Kris Kristofferson, the wizard hired to take the company out of fiscal quicksand. Screwball repartee in the New World Order: "I'm still not sure I trust you." "A perfect basis for a relationship." Pakula's subtle satire -- the hero's blockiness is turned to heated abandon after a particularly arduous monetary session -- was lost on critics, and also on the makers of Syriana, who lifted the format without understanding it. Hume Cronyn elucidates the intrigue (leading to deceit, murder, and worldwide breakdown) as a "routine baking operation," though the best summarization of the epoch was delivered the previous year by Brando's Titan Oil tycoon in Avildsen's The Formula: "You are missing the point. We are the Arabs." Capra's bank-storming is writ global for the ending, with Pakula quoting Roosevelt over 360° circulars pan that locate a couple of superstars facing each other on the brink of a new, ambiguous beginning (cf. Tout va Bien). With Josef Sommer, Bob Gunton, and Macon McCalman.
--- Fernando F. Croce