A winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture, The French Connection is a taught and edgy police thriller starring Gene Hackman in the role that won him the first of his two Oscars. The film is inspired by the book of the same name and blends fact and fiction to bring a major drug smuggling operation to the big screen. Detectives Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle (Hackman) and Buddy ‘Cloudy’ Russo (Roy Scheider) uncover a plot to smuggle a large quantity of heroin from France to the East Coast of the USA and tail leads, battle assassins and fight their bosses in an attempt to bring the traffickers down.
Early scenes criss-cross the Atlantic between New York City and Marseilles where the protagonists are either setting up to smuggle drugs or carrying out street busts. A few of the opening scenes gave me eye strain due to the slightly juddery hand held style of camera work used by Director William Friedkin. Once I was over the initial disorientation that the camera work gave me though, I was able to appreciate the almost documentary style of realism that Friedkin captures. He gets right to the heart of the action with cameras placed in close quarters to the actors when necessary but also stands back at times, delivering long tracking or panning shots as the characters play a game of cat and mouse through the streets of New York.