The film, told in an intelligent flashback, is divided into 3 segments. First is the plotting. A mild mannered bank clerk meets a minor artist. Both want to get out of their seedy Lavender Hill boarding house & nondescript existance. Both look past their glory days. Yet together they have the opportunity to pull off a brilliant crime.
Then comes the heist. A surprisingly simple operation perfectly (almost!) executed. Finally the escape - getting the gold outside the country into the 'continental blackmarket'. Alas, the movie being made in the good old days when crime didn't pay, our heroes must suffer. But by then they have given us enough joy & adventure for us to forgive their one tragic slip.
This is definitely one of the best comedies Ealing studios made in the '50s (my other favourite is the vastly underrated 'Hue & Cry' where Alistair Sim gives a typical quirky performance & the tipsy 'Whiskey Galore'). Holloway & Guinness acted in many of them. They usually played very stiff upper British lip polite, eccentric, but excitable characters. In this movie they decide they are familiar enough to ask each other their first names only after they have robbed a bank together! When Holloway realises they can pull it off, his face is hidden in the shadows as he slowly tells Guinness, 'Thank God Holland, we are both honest men' - a line which I think summarises the entire movie.
The reason this movie is so amusing even today is that it is very tightly scripted (Tibby Clark won an Oscar for his effort) & brilliantly realised by the ensemble cast. As far as caper films go this has half the gadgetry of 'Entrapment' but twice the fun.
This is the 3rd time I am seeing this movie & I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. Please see this one!