I'd never really thought anything of this film, I've never heard it talked about as a classic, or even as one of the better conspiracy films of the 70's. My boss loaned me the DVD, because he wanted me to edit something like the brainwashing scene in this film, a wonderfully trippy, beautifully cut set of imagery, meant to turn Warren Beatty into an assassin. (I haven't had the chance to make my version, but I'm looking forward to it.) But it turned out to be a good film, definitely underrated, something that should be remembered.
The film begins in Seattle, with a Senator getting assassinated at the Space Needle, the assassin is killed when he falls off the top, leaving the Government no clues they choose to believe he was working alone. Warren Beatty plays investigative reporter Joseph Frady, who was on the scene when it happens, even though it's his job to dig for the truth, he believes the final report. Until a former girlfriend and fellow reporter on the scene comes to him in a high state of paranoia, she tells him about all the witnesses that have mysteriously died in the months following. When she dies soon after, Frady is compelled to discover what's really going on.
Despite the warnings of his newspaper editor, played by the great character actor Hume Cronyn, Frady goes undercover. First he reveals a dirty sheriff in a small town that helped cover up one of the witnesses murders, which unveils to him a much greater conspiracy. Some sort of shadowy corporation that is training assassins; which he puts himself up as a candidate for, hoping to bring it all down from the inside. As he gets deeper, the more people die around him, there's a very tense scene where he's stuck on a plane with a bomb. The end of the film is constructed in a way that you could interpret it in a few different ways, which may be frustrating for today's audience, but perfect for the 70's and those that appreciate a good mystery.
Warren Beatty is good as Frady, with his usual charisma on display for a while, but it fades as he gets deeper and his paranoia grows. There is some cool experimental editing, the brainwashing sequence being the apex of that. The film also includes another staple of 70's cinema, a car chase, which is a fairly good one, but nothing compared to Bullit or The French Connection. The ending will give you something to ponder, it'll stick with you for a while; there are some allusions towards Oswald and the Kennedy assassination. I think that The Parallax View may be overlooked because director Alan J. Pakula, went on to make All the President's Men a few years later, which is held up as the standard for all 70's conspiracy films; but it shouldn't be overlooked.