Let's cut to the chase. If you liked those old 1970s government conspiracy movies like "Three Days of the Condor," "The Conversation," and "The Parallax View," you will also like AMC's new Sunday night drama, "Rubicon."
"Rubicon" stars James Badge Dale (Leckie from "The Pacific") as Will Travers, an analyst at a New York City think tank who stumbles upon secret messages being sent through crossword puzzles in major newspapers. He shows the coded messages to his boss and best friend (Peter Gerety), who shows them to his boss, setting off a gruesome chain of events.
Badge is terrific as the loner Will, who becomes consumed with unraveling all the small mysteries and coded messages left behind after an unfortunate "accident," and making a lot of people in high places very uncomfortable along the way.
Meanwhile, there's the widow (Miranda Richardson) of a mysterious man who shoots himself after seeing a four-leaf clover attached to his morning newspaper in the opening scene of the pilot. She ends up doing her own detective work to find out what her husband was hiding from her, likewise upsetting those who would rather she let eternally sleeping husbands lie.
These mysteries are presumably all connected, and eventually we'll learn how. But the pace is quite slow, although it probably only feels that way because modern movies and TV shows have turned us into adrenaline junkies always waiting for the next car chase, explosion, or shootout. Yet the old school feel of this thriller -- the lone man being followed down a dark deserted street, the abandoned parking garages, the footsteps in the hallway -- give "Rubicon" a realistically sinister atmosphere.
Another reason "Rubicon" has such a 1970s vibe is the liberal use of nearly-antiquated devices (at least by TV and movie standards) such as books and newspapers. You don't see the characters whip out iPhones or iPads to read about current events or to Google a bit of trivia. They carry actual newspapers around and reach for well-worn volumes off of crowded bookshelves. It's just one of the elements that makes you feel as though the story could very easily be picked up and set back down in 1975 with Robert Redford in the lead.
But James Badge Dale is just fine with me, thank you very much.
The "Rubicon" pilot will air tonight on AMC at 8pm and then a second new episode will air at 9pm. Don't forget to DVR both of them.