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Train with medical supplies and small U.S. Army unit is heading through Rocky mountains towards plagued Fort Humboldt. Among its passengers are territory governor, priest, doctor and U.S. Marshal with his prisoner, John Deakin. However, nothing on that train is what it seems. Written by
Dragan Antulov <firstname.lastname@example.org>
During the rooftop fight, snow covers the entire roof of the supply car. But in the exterior shot just before, about one-third of the roof was not covered. Also, the layer of snow appears to be thinner in one shot of Carlos climbing on the roof. See more »
Anyone who's ever had to slog through his soul-destroying ITC or Cannon-years output will find it hard to imagine that there was ever a time when Charles Bronson was a half-decent actor who not only made films that were actually released in cinemas, but good ones at that. Breakheart Pass is probably the best of the last burst of quality output in the actor's oeuvre that also saw Hard Times (aka The Streetfighter) and the whimsical From Noon Til Three; for that matter, the last good Alistair MacLean screen outing before what seems like an eternity of formulaic made-for-TV efforts with C-list casts.
The plot has all the MacLean staples - sabotage, secret identities, wolves in sheep's clothing and a plot where no-one and nothing is what they appear to be. The only novelty is the location, a train rushing through the old West to bring medical supplies to a cholera-infected fort through strikingly snowbound mountain countryside beautifully captured through cinematographer Lucien Ballard's lens. But the fact that so much of the film is simply one of the author's beloved WW2 plots with outlaws and Indians instead of Nazis doesn't matter: it's the telling that counts, and with a tight script and strong direction from Tom Gries that is equally adept at the mystery (more a 'what the heck's going on?' than 'who's behind it all?') as action (most notably a good rooftop punch-up and a spectacular wreck) it's never a dull ride.
Bronson, still making an effort in those days, comes over well, while the strong supporting cast (including John Ford and Sam Peckinpah regular Ben Johnson, as well as Richard Crenna, Charles Durning and Ed Lauter) add a pleasing layer of professionalism and credibility. Even Jill Ireland, never the most interesting of leading ladies, acquits herself well here.
Everyone here has done better work (check out Gries extraordinarily affecting Will Penny or Ballard's work on The Wild Bunch), and it's not a life-changing experience, but that's not the point. This is an audience picture that sets out to entertain you for an hour-and-a-half, and succeeds admirably. And Jerry Goldsmith's terrific and exhilaratingly exciting score
his best in the genre - is the icing on the cake.
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