The French Connection is another rather unusual winner in this category since it doesn’t concern itself with war or some social problem, it’s not a musical or a groundbreaking epic – it’s simple an almost old-fashioned crime film about two cops and their fight against heroin smugglers. What’s probably the reason why this movie works so well is the fact that this old-fashioned story is combined with a modern, thrilling, fast and gripping execution.
The French Connection is a movie that constantly sacrifices the whole to focus on its parts – a wise choice since the plot, while inserted nicely into the overall picture, lacks real structure and development. That’s why The French Connection benefits mostly from the way it presents certain scenes, how it focuses on the action and how it creates suspense. Such memorable scenes are Doyle following a smuggler to a subway station and then trying not to be noticed by him, Doyle being shot at and then following the guy in one of the most famous car chase scenes ever until he shots him in the back, Doyle and Russo raiding a bar or the surprisingly dark ending. In some ways, The French Connection is similar to An American in Paris as a triumph of style over substance but The French Connection comes out as the winner since its plot goes definitely deeper than the superficial love story in An American in Paris.
The French Connection benefits from its technical values and its ability to present a lot of scenes in a very captivating way while letting Gene Hackman (and to an extent Roy Scheider) provide the necessary human emotions. It’s a crime thriller on a very high level and never loses its tempo or its suspense while allowing the central characters to shine more than expected.