All aboard for runaway action and suspense in this riveting masterpiece from writer/director Michael Crichton! Starring Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley Anne-Down, it's a "spine-tingling and suavely performed" ad... more »venture (The Hollywood Reporter) based on history's first train robbery. Filmed by Academy AwardÂ(r)-winning* cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, this "ingenious" (Variety) and "wonderful" (Gene Shalit) crime caper delivers mile-a-minute thrills and breathtaking excitement. Connery is Edward Pierce, a master thief who conceives a brilliant plan to steal a fortune in gold bars from a railroad payroll car. But to pull off the most daring heist in history, Pierce must join forces with a safecracker (Sutherland) and his own beautiful girlfriend (Down) in a series of intricately plotted thefts that will test all of their nerve, camaraderie and larcenous skill. *1972: Cabaret; 1980: Tess« less
I read this book before ever viewing the movie, which seemed like it might be a boring excursion; however, it's Crichton, so I gave it a go. I can see why the subject matter interested him. As with all Crichton novels, he gives the reader mass quantities of data surrounding the plot and characters. Got quite a history lesson, as has happened with several of his historical pieces. Our current frames of reference nowadays are miles away from the folks a couple centuries ago. This movie is a faithful rendering of the book. All in all, would recommend this. Films glorifying criminal activity? Maybe not so much.
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One of my favorites of all caper movies
Darren Harrison | Washington D.C. | 01/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on the book and directed by Michael Crichton, this enjoyable caper movie from 1979 brings together a fantastic cast in an authentic 19th century Victorian environment to tell a story based around the true story of the first great train robbery. I saw this movie many years ago on British television and have always found it enjoyable so it was an easy buy for me. In addition to a superb Sean Connery as the suave mastermind Edward Pierce (is Connery ever NOT suave) and the always amazing Donald Sutherland as his accomplice Agar, we also have Lesley-Anne Down as Miriam. Down was a favorite actress of mine from this era with movies like "The Pink Panther Strikes Again," "Rough Cut" and "Sphinx." Here she plays Connery's lover who is not afraid to use her quite incredible feminine charms to aid Pierce character. Joining the three leads are such well known faces as British television celebrity Michael Elphick (as the railway guard who aids Pierce and Agar); Pamela Salem as Emily Trent (Salem would be reunited with Connery four years later in the rogue 007 film "Never Say Never Again") and Alan Webb as the bank president. Filmed in Ireland with a modest budget of only $6 million, the script is intelligent, the action appropriate and the dialogue both witty and engaging. The showpiece stunt with Pierce on top of a moving train has since been copied many times since, including in the 1983 James Bond movie "Octopussy" with Roger Moore in the role that Sean Connery made famous). But this stunt sequence is distinctive in that Connery performed his own stunts. The train was supposed to be traveling only 35 miles-per-hour, but Connery argued that the train was actually moving much faster, an assertion that was confirmed by the helicopter pilot who measured the speed of the train at 55 miles-per-hour. The movie, set in 1855, tells the story of the three conspirators attempts to steal $25 million in gold bullion that is being transported by train to pay British troops fighting in the Crimean War. To gain access to the gold Pierce and Agar need copies to four keys and the bulk of the movie involves their efforts to obtain each key in what can be described as four separate caper tales. The effort and difficulties facing the thieves is ably outlined by Connery in the opening narration to the movie: "In the year 1855, England and France were at war with Russia in the Crimea. The English troops were paid in gold. Once a month, twenty-five thousand pounds in gold was loaded into strongboxes inside the London bank of Huddleston and Bradford and taken by trusted armed guards to the railway station. The convoy followed no fixed route or timetable. At the station, the gold was loaded into the luggage van of the Folkestone train for shipment to the coast and from there to the Crimea. The strongboxes were placed into two specially-built Chubb safes constructed of three-quarter inch tempered steel. Each safe weighed five hundred and fifty pounds. Each safe was fitted with two locks, requiring two keys, or four keys altogether. For security, each key was individually protected. Two keys were entrusted to the railway dispatcher who kept them locked in his office. A third was in the custody of Mr. Edgar Trent, president of the Huddleston and Bradford. And the fourth key was given to Mr. Henry Fowler, manager of the Huddleston and Bradford. The presence of so much gold in one place naturally aroused the interest of the English criminal elements. But in 1855 there had never been a robbery from a moving railway train." There are some definite differences between the actual robbery on which Crichton based his work and the movie. The actual plot involved four criminals - Pierce, Agar, the railway guard Burgess, and a railway clerk named Tester and all four keys were kept on railroad premises in London and Folkestone. But as it turned out the two Foilkestone keys were not used. In addition the guard's van was not locked from the outside; Pierce and Agar were let in by Burgess, and a share of the loot was handed out to Tester at stations. The crown jewel as far as supplementary material is concerned is the scene specific commentary by writer-director Crichton. Even given the intervening 18 years between the release of the movie and the recording of the commentary Crichton seems to have a wealth of anecdotal and technical recollections of the making of the movie and displays a genuine affection for the movie. We learn about the research he did for the book and the machinations that went on behind the scenes. Apparently the largely British and Irish crew initially had little respect for the young director until he ordered a copy of his 1978 movie "Coma" for them to watch, after which he got more respect. In another incident Crichton's hair caught on fire when the locomotive emitted burning embers. There is also (as was common for MGM releases in the earlu days of DVD) an 8-page glossy, full color booklet with trivia surrounding the making of the movie."
S. Avery | West Palm Beach, FL United States | 12/14/1999
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I happen to really like this film. It's one that I can watch repeatedly and always enjoy. But the DVD version has such poor video quality that I returned it and have kept the VHS. The sceen in the graveyard, in particular, is not what I'd expect if a decent master has been used for the transfer. Check it out, but keep your receipt!"
Unmissable is just one word for this unique film!
Gabriel | Bury St Edmunds, UK | 06/09/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was very lucky to have been introduced to this film at a young age, as I have had countless hours of joy watching this masterpiece... time and time again. The Great Train Robbery has a unique quality, that all films strive to achieve, which is the capacity to entice an audience to return! It is an intelligent, crime comedy, with so much to offer any individual. Superb performances from the likes of the greats Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, for which I shall always remember them for, with a great supporting cast of familiar British faces. The story tells of a handful of criminals, equipped with their own individual skills, who aspire to pull of the biggest train robbery to date. Set in a Victorian London, the film takes us through trains, stations, courts, prisons, and the streets of London... in a chase to outrun the police and each other. The crime's success depends on their charm, speed, cunning, love of cats and a change of clothes! For me the film is complete with the final scene, which is one of the most exciting and gratifying that I have ever had the pleasure to watch. It's escapism at its best... watch, but be prepared for admiration of the two characters, of Connery and Sutherland! The film is great, in its truest sense!"
"No respectable gentleman...is that respectable"
The JuRK | Our Vast, Cultural Desert | 02/09/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I remember being completely taken with this movie when I saw it in 1979. Sean Connery was on THE TODAY SHOW when it was released and discussed doing his own stunt work during the robbery scenes. Stumbling atop the rattling train, he was certain they had to be moving much faster than 35 MPH. When he asked the engineers how they knew they were going 35, they said they calculated it by counting the telephone poles going by! The train was actually going well over 50 MPH!Director Michael Crichton recounts the same story in his commentary. I would've given this film five stars but, after listening to him voice his disatisfaction with it, I took one star off. I should've left the commentary for another time!Crichton does offer a lot of interesting insights into the film. The difficulties of recreating a London that doesn't exist anymore, the moral dilemma of filming a dog killing rats (the "ratting" scene is real), the filming of the train scenes.Connery brings his cool authority to the proceedings and Donald Sutherland is always interesting. Lesley Anne Down is gorgeous.I really loved Jerry Goldsmith's elegant score. It really pulled the film together musically and I still have the soundtrack album.
I just wish I'd been in the soundbooth with Mr. Crichton after he finished his commentary: I would've said, "Come on, give yourself a break: you made a very cool movie!""