The Great Train Robbery (1978) Poster

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If you've turned nose on me I'll see you in Lavender.
hitchcockthelegend11 August 2011
The First Great Train Robbery is directed by Michael Crichton who also writes the screenplay. It stars Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland, Lesley-Anne Down, Wayne Sleep, Robert Lang, Alan Webb and Andre Morell. Music is scored by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth. The story is loosely based on the real Great Gold Robbery of 1855, where a rogue criminal named William Pierce and his cohorts executed the theft of £12,000 in gold from a speeding train on route to aid the British Army during the Crimean War.

A delightful period caper picture that's high on production value and fun characterisations. Split into two halves, Crichton's movie makes light of the actual crime to portray Connery and co as lovable rogues, thus hooking the viewer in to actually root for them to pull off the intricate crime. First half (well it's more two thirds of the film to be exact) details how the robbers obtained the four keys needed to get into the safe. Harder than it sounds since they are in different locations to one and other and guarded over by different officials. Naturally there are scrapes, skirmishes and obstacles to overcome during this complex operation, and no short amount of humour and tension either. Then it's on to the actual crime, which buzzes ferociously with derring do and ingenious cheek! It may have been loaded with chitter chatter and much bluffing of the way leading up to it, but the pay off is excellent and not without genuine excitement as Connery's (doing his own stunt work) Pierce and Sutherland's safe cracking Agar pull off the seemingly impossible.

Benefiting the film greatly is Crichton's attention to detail, where he thrives on the Victorian England setting. From the streets, the costumes, the dialogue and mannerisms of the characters, they all fit nicely within the narrative. Helps, too, that the cast are playing it with tongue in cheek, Connery and Sutherland are revelling in playing roguish dandies, splendidly attired facially with quality face fuzz and Down raises the temperature of Connery and male audience members alike. Probably her best ever performance, Crichton writes a good role for Down that sees her not only as a sexy head turner (it's unlikely that Victorian underwear has ever looked this sexy before in film), but also as an observant member of the gang; one who isn't too shabby on the disguise front either. Dancer Wayne Sleep is nicely cast as a fleet footed housebreaker, while Lang, Webb, Morell and Michael Elphick pitch their respective performances just right. Goldsmith's score is energetic and Unsworth's (his last film as he sadly passed away shortly after shooting it) photography is a lesson in quality without trickery.

Fanciful and tame if compared to the big budgeted actioners of today, The First Great Train Robbery none the less is testament that simplicity of plot and a keenness to entertain is sometimes all you need. 8/10
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Quite exciting...
Nazi_Fighter_David26 January 2009
'The First Great Train Robbery' is about a quite impossible mission in Victorian underworld... It is about 25,000 pounds in gold bars placed in strongboxes and taken by armed security guards to the railway station...

'The First Great Train Robbery' is about the fastest pickpocket you'll ever see, a suave and daring gentleman who never tells the truth… It is also about a bunch crooks that can steal your heart with the company of a fascinating disguised mistress who suspects that her father breaks his own regulation for each morning of the shipments...

'The First Great Train Robbery' chronicles the grandeur and hypocrisy at all levels of England during the Victorian Era, and proves that the cleverness and prowess of a criminal mastermind is elevated to heroic status...

With excellent photography of Ireland beautiful countryside, and great music score by Jerry Goldsmith, plus the costumes and sets, Michael Crichton's movie gives train heist's fans the pleasure to enjoy a very entertaining period thriller
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The Great Gold Heist of 1855
bkoganbing31 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
With Mission Impossible like precision, Sean Connery, Lesley Anne Down, and Donald Sutherland pull off The First Great Train Robbery, years before Jesse James did it in the American West.

Of course holding up a train with a dozen masked bandit confederates doesn't equal the near precision complexity that it took to steal gold bullion off a train by three men in stealth. Connery is the mastermind of the scheme and he plays Edward Pierce with the usual charm we've come to associate with Connery.

It was interesting how Connery gets the idea for the heist in your typical Englishman's club with at least one of the responsible parties for the gold in that very room. The other club members know him as a retired industrialist who seems rather well fixed and comfortable. If they only knew the real source of his comfort.

Lesley Anne Down may have given her career performance here as Connery's girl friend. Their scenes fairly crackle with witty repartee and sexual innuendo. Down is certainly not above using her sex to help in the robbery. In fact the first part of the plan which took about a year in preparation was to get duplicates of four keys that unlock the safe on the train where the bullion is transported. She compromises one of the key custodians in a Victorian bordello which is the film's humor highlight.

Donald Sutherland is the safecracker friend of Connery's enlisted for the caper. He gets the dirtiest details of the caper. In fact the authorities get wind of some kind of plan in the works and Connery has to make some last minute adjustments to his plan. The adjustments call for Sutherland to get into the car in a coffin with a dead cat for odorous effect. What some won't do for money. Sutherland handles the whole thing quite well.

Connery has the dangerous part of the caper which calls for him to go from front to back on a moving train. Those sequences according to the Films of Sean Connery were shot in Ireland which better represented the look of rural 1855 England. I was stunned to learn that Connery himself did the stunts. Sean admitted himself that it was the most dangerous business he ever undertook for any film. What some will do for the sake of art.

The First Great Train Robbery is a stylish caper film set in Victorian Great Britain and the film really captures the look and manner of the period. One of Sean Connery's best films, definitely worth a look.
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Excellent Crime Movie
Lag2Deth18 October 1999
I like heist flicks, and this is the best I've seen so far. It's got great suspense as the crew of thieves (led by the incomparable Sean Connery) makes intricate plans and patiently prepares for the big day, changing and adapting the plan as needed to cope with unexpected obstacles. There is little in the way of sub-plots; virtually all of the action and plot is part of The Plan. The Victorian setting is great; you start to wonder where Jeremy Brett (as Sherlock Holmes) is, and when he's going to catch these crooks.

I'm a little puzzled by the category of "action/comedy." I'd say this was firmly in the "crime" category, and no other.

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"I wanted the money."
dkncd21 October 2007
"The Great Train Robbery" is based on a novel by Michael Crichton. It features the efforts of a band of three to rob gold kept in elaborate safes on a train leaving England to support the Crimean War. The film's costumes, elaborate sets and a score from Jerry Goldsmith are impeccable at creating a sense of Victorian England.

Sean Connery is charming as Edward Pierce, who leads the robbers. Donald Sutherland has a memorable role as Robert Agar, a top-rate thief and accomplice to Pierce. Lesley-Anne Down plays Miriam, Pierce's enchanting female companion who has no scruples about using her womanly charms.

The film follows the elaborate and interesting lengths that the gang must go to before they can even board the train. The elements of a great caper film are there: split-second decisions, tension and improvisations when plans go awry. The film also benefits from a lot of well-placed humor. "The Great Train Robbery" proves to remain interesting throughout the build up to and during the robbery.
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wilsonstuart-3234610 November 2018
The First Great Train Robbery is a first rate, seldom seen, crime thriller with Sean Connery, Lesley Ann Downes (who impresses in corsets) and Donald Sutherland who execute an audacious train England 1855 (with a little help from Wayne Sleep). Written with forensic prescison by Micheal Crichton, it staggers me that Sean Connery could have been considered box office poison with a project of this calibre.

Makes Buster look turgid - heartily recommended.
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Nice Period Piece For A Heist Flick
ccthemovieman-128 May 2006
Wow, this is a wonderfully-filmed movie that especially looked good since it was one of the first DVDs I purchased a decade ago. Rich colors and good period detail of 19th century England made it visually attractive. However, the picture was too grainy. I hope someone has re-issued this and given it the transfer it deserves.

Beware that it takes quite awhile before the actual holdup takes place. This is almost a two-hour film and they build up slowly to famous heist. However, I didn't find any of it boring. This is rated PG but there are quite of bit of sexual innuendos early on by Connery as he woos Lesley-Ane Down. Other than that, it's a pretty tame film. Donald Sutherland adds a touch a touch of humor here and there as he and Connery pull off the suspenseful heist....and it is suspenseful.

Connery trying to maneuver on top of the train was a highlight, as was the "whooshing" sound of the train each time it passed under a bridge. The stereo in here is very good for a film almost 30 years old.
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A must see.
aldonar16 June 2000
Probably the most entertaining movie about this period of time. An accurate view of England in the middle of 19th century as well as a thrilling action/comedy. Do not forget to read Michael Crichton novel which is as good as the film.
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Amusing film about the greatest heist of all time with convincing acting , suspenseful and evocative settings
ma-cortes29 July 2013
Attractive picture written and directed by Michael Crichton who based his book and movie only loosely on the actual crime committed in 1855 about stealing shipment of gold from a moving train and destined to the Crimea for British soldiers who are there fighting the Russians . In Victorian England , a brilliant trio of crooks conspire to pull off a spectacular heist ; they are formed by an elegant master criminal called Edward Pierce (boastful Sean Connery spent several days running on top of a moving train) and his accomplices , a pickpocket cracksman called Agar (Donald Sutherland) and a beautiful mistress named Miriam (Lesley-Anne Down) make a elaborate plan to steal a shipment of gold from a moving train . But the gold is stored in two locked safes that requires four separate keys to be opened . Never have so few taken so much from so many .

Based on a true incident , this intrigue-filled caper has been packed with suspense , thrills , action , stylish fun and hooks to keep interested . The film was entitled "The First Great Train Robbery" to distance it from a £2 million robbery from a mail train in 1963 which was known in the British press as "The Great Train Robbery" . The movie faithfully reflects some events of the Victorian era such as large differences of classes , public executions applauded by the assistants , carriage parades and many other things . Sensational trio protagonist who can steal your heart , as Sean Connery as a dashing mastermind , Donald Sutherland as a skill cracksman , and a gorgeous Lesly-Anne Down . Agreeable support cast such as Robert Lang , Michael Elphick , Alan Webb and Wayne Sleep ,one of Britain's premier ballet dancers, from The Royal Ballet Company , he actually did his own stunts, including scaling the Newgate prison walls, at the tremendous risk of falling and hurting himself . And it was the final film for both André Morell and Peter Butterworth, both of whom had died by the time that it was released . Thrilling and intriguing musical score by the great Jerry Goldsmith , director Michael Crichton frequently hired Jerry Goldsmith to compose the scores for his films . Colorful and evocative cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth , in fact , the picture is dedicated to his memory ; being marvelously photographed against gorgeous Irish countryside . The motion picture was well directed by Michael Crichton . After giving up medicine, Michael moved to Hollywood, California, in the early 1970s and began directing movies based on his books, his first big break being ¨Westworld¨ (1973) and subsequently wrote and directed other successes as ¨Coma¨, ¨Runaway¨ and ¨13º warrior¨ until his early death by cancer at 66 years old .
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Excellent movie
vikasjoshi-9970517 August 2018
Must watch it for impeccable script & direction of Michael Crichton .Sean Connery again at top notch performance...
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surprised not rated higher
enmussak15 December 2002
Warning: Spoilers

I think this film should be a classic. The story was very engaging at it moved along at a near perfect pace. Sutherland and Connery were very good together and I was rooting for them the whole time.

I think that the big problem with this film that keeps it from being a classic film is the ending. Something much better could have been done rather then them just "getting away" in a very improbable event. I don't know what it could have been done, but it should have been done.
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A Very Arresting Comedy/Crime Caper
Sonatine9716 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Another fine performance from Connery in his attempt to move away from his cliched James Bond persona and expand on a wider variety of character roles.

Based on a richly descriptive screenplay & textured direction, both by Critchton, we see Connery as a master criminal/gentleman attempt to steal gold from a moving train in Victorian England.

Connery plays the role very much with a straight bat, perhaps a little too pompous & stiff but entertaining all the same.

However, he is ably supported by fellow criminals Donald Sutherland (with a rather thick & unforgiving Cockney accent) and a rather angelic performance from Leley-Anne Down as Connery's love interest.

Coupled with a some outstanding cinematography by Geff Unsworth, showing panoramic views of the English countryside, as well as superb set direction of a very realistic Victorian London, First Great Train Robbery is a treat to watch.

Critchton's direction has never been better, although I feel the film is perhaps 10 or 15 minutes overlong. But he never lets the pace flounder, and neither does he let the Connery-Down love interest suffocate or distract from the overall plot.

However, the characterisation for the main leads is a bit shallow & clumbsy. Connery is very much at home as Edward Pierce, the well respect city gent & playboy. In essence, not all that different from his James Bond character, although in this film he is given enough invention & ad-lib to make the character more rounded than the rather one-dimensional Bond.

Sutherland, offers the comic-relief, the working-class foil to Connery's respected gent, and he plays it very well, apart from the rather hammy English accent.

Obviously the most memorable scenes are with Connery risking his own life as he hops along the tops of carriages of a steam train as it winds its way through the English countryside on its way to Folkstone. I must admit to being totally gobsmacked at how close Connery was to being decapitated from those very low bridges the train went under. But I guess its testiment to Connery's great interest in the movie that he allowed himself to take on such risk.

The ending is perhaps too contrived and perhaps blemishes the movie as a whole. But don't let this stop you. Overall, this is a fine film and a very funny film, and is definitely an under-rated Connery role that deserved more praise than it received on original release.

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Good movie, gives a good impression of Victorian England as well as being suspenseful
Ygraine20 February 1999
Some people say that Crichton's books do not make for good movies. In this case it is not so. Crichton became fascinated with Victorian England, and was able to educate the public in a very useful way as well as write a suspenseful story. The movies does not really educate in the same way, unless you rent the DVD and listen to the director's comments. But the movie gives a very authentic feeling of Victorian England and has good pacing for the suspense aspect of it. I love movies based on true stories, and this one is one of them. We know all about exactly how it was done because the main character was caught, told the court everything, and then audaciously escaped! One really important thing that Crichton says: the great majority of crimes are never solved. Something to chew on.
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Fun to watch
darth_sidious27 May 2000
This one is fun to watch as the thieves work an intricate plan to rob a train.

The performances are terrific, but the director and the late great Geoffrey Unsworth's delightful photography bring the Victorian Era back to life. The detail is wonderful in all the sets and surroundings.

The plot is very simple, the film is focused and I found myself rooting for the thieves!
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Clever, Cohesive, and Funny
view_and_review20 June 2019
The year is 1855. The place is England. A man going by the name of Edward Pierce (Sean Connery) has his eyes on a near impossible heist. He wants to steal the Crimean gold that goes by railway from one part of England to another. Besides the fact it's guarded at the time of transit, the safe requires four separate keys that are in three separate locations. Oh yeah, and no one has ever robbed a moving locomotive before. I suppose he could Butch-Cassidy-and-the-Sundance-Kid it and force the train to stop, then blow open the safe. But this is England and no such brutish tactics will be used. This will take stealth, guile, and intelligence. In other words, it was a sophisticated operation.

This was a superb heist movie. It was clever, it was cohesive, and it was funny. I liked the pairing of Connery and Donald Sutherland. Heist movies always have to be clever and cutting edge because the mark is always super-secure and nearly impossible to breach. What sets one heist movie apart from the other is the story within and the characters. This story was straight forward and simple. There were no red herrings, no sappy side stories, and no deux ex-machinas. And the characters were very enjoyable.

This Michael Crichton film was simply excellent.
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They were the first, but they wouldn't be the last
stebird21 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Performances extraordinary all across the board with this one; the acting was quintessentially classical, Sean Connery is a class act whatever he performs in and Donald Sutherland showed some serious weight dipping somewhat out of his comfort zone to star in a very British movie (the guys American).

Whether the film is true to life I couldn't say as I wasn't around in the Victorian era, most likely it was beefed up for the big screen, but this matters not as the film was one of the last examples of old-school British film-making.

Pierce and Agar are depicted as being cool before cool was even a thing, I couldn't see the real life duo being as cool and crowd pleasing as they are shown in the film, perfect example of how things are altered for the screen; but yes, they are villains no doubt, but not the detestable kind of villain you wish to see get their comeuppance, they're uniquely both the antagonist and the protagonist, you get behind them and root for them even though what they are doing is very illegal..., they are quite clearly anti-hero's.

The period setting was astonishing, so many integrate details and due to its era of release, not a shot of CGI in sight, truly masterful.

It achieves so much, and appeals to a wide range of genres, from drama to action, from biographical to romance, some may even consider the genre comedy to be prevalent, I certainly found some of the scenes to be rather amusing, such as the whole fiasco with the coffin being taken onto the train.

An oldie but a goody, any budding film fan should add this well put together film to their collection.
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Love That Train!
JohnHowardReid30 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
When author Michael Crichton published a novel entitled The Great Train Robbery, many people were confused as to whether it was fact or fiction. So Crichton re-titled this film version of his novel as The First Great Train Robbery. And a very exciting picture it is too. Not only is the story itself thrilling, but it incorporates some really hair-raising stunts. According to the press release, Crichton insisted that his stars perform all their own stunts. So, allegedly it is Sean Connery himself that we see leaping from carriage to carriage of the speeding train and almost being knocked off his precarious perch by a low-clearance bridge. Another fine actor whom Crichton cajoled into doing his own stunts is Wayne Sleep who makes a palm-sweating escape from prison by clambering up a four-storey wall. Yes, all the performances in this film are engrossing, but Lesley-Ann Down deserves a special mention. In the course of the plot, she adopts a number of very convincing disguises and manages to change her voice so successfully as to fool even me at times. But exciting as the story is, the feature I like best in this film is its authentic atmosphere and its detailed recreation of Victorian London. No expense has seemingly been spared. The sets are huge and there are hundreds and hundreds of costumed extras milling around. And how about the train itself? Here's a real vintage steam train let loose on a glorious jaunt through the British countryside! Yes, The First Great Train Robbery is a movie that would appear to hold all the ingredients for a top commercial success, including a great cast, a strong story, straightforward direction and extremely lavish production values. And yet the film flopped!
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A Drum-Tight Caper Told Like a Tall Tale in Yorkshire Pub
jzappa10 July 2011
Writing and directing The Great Train Robbery, Michael Crichton took much license with the facts of the story's basis, mostly to incorporate a tone of sardonic humor and mean-spirited mustachioed grinning. Sir Sean Connery has always been a great light comedian, having played Bond as a discreetly comic character. That's probably why Lazenby and Moore never totally matched him: They played 007 too orthodox. In Connery's charismatic oeuvre, master safecracker Edward Pierce is no exception.

The inimitable Donald Sutherland, playing a Victorian pickpocket and con man, is somewhat miscast as Connery's partner. He is not convincingly English, to my surprise frankly, though he does bring a new characteristic or two to virtually each film he's in, and here he's not just Connery's cohort but his foil. Leslie Ann Down plays Connery's moll and co-conspirator, and she appears to have been preordained to wear Victorian undergarments.

The plot for the heist is rather upfront: The train's safe, containing the gold, is protected with four keys, each in different hands. The challenge is to divide these holders from their keys, if possible in scenarios that serious, by-the-book Victorian gentlemen would be opposed to explaining to the police, so one aged banker is shadowed at a dogfight and another is intercepted in a brothel. There's also a Stopwatch Sequence for caper enthusiasts like me: Connery and Sutherland undergo numerous trials before endeavoring to burglarize the railway company office, and we get a gracefully stage-managed robbery effort with all the timeless taps like the guard reappearing a nanosecond after the critical moment and such.

One of the foremost amusements of this drum-tight caper is the way it's determinedly in the Victorian era. The costumes and the art direction are sincere, Crichton infuses his dialogue with undoubtedly genuine Victorian gangland wording, and, for the climactic train heist, they even constructed a whole operational train. Other gratifications: The nefarious deception used to smuggle Connery into the protected car with the gold; the chase sequence atop the train; and, certainly, the loin-scorchingly superb presence of Down, who is wryly funny in her own right.

An ornately thorough and exciting caper that parades historical accuracy in support of the tempting charisma of gentleman scoundrels up to no good. Connery and Sutherland are unscrupulous to their foundations but full of audacity and shrewdness. We're supportive of them all the way, with their dashing top hats, rustling coat-tails and panorama of facial hair.

There's a patent two-act structure to the proficient script. Crichton has a scientist's sensitivity to exactitude. First the crack team toil through the preparation phases, as they progressively appropriate indentations of the four keys necessary to unlock the safe, resulting in the heist itself on a train tearing through the British scenery. In the course of this era of steam power, it appeared a hopeless scheme. Meek, perhaps, by the wicked tempo of modern action sequences, Crichton nevertheless infuses a rousing realism with Connery mannishly performing his own stunts as he traverses the rooftop through clouds of grimy smoke, for the golden fleece.

All around, Crichton absorbs the tissue and texture of whimsical Victoriana from the bitter brick walls of the prison for Wayne Sleep's lithe prison escape to the plush, glossy furnishings of the brothel where the sexy Down slips a key from Alan Webb's frenziedly horny bank manager. But naturalism is not the approach, Crichton is after a giddy attribute like it's being told as a tall story in a pub sopping in overstatement and heightened deceit to whitewash impractical snags.
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And Let There Be Outstanding 19th-century Entertainment, and There Was Connery, Sutherland, Down & Crighton
classicalsteve21 February 2010
In the beginning there were four keys. And the keys were used to lock two giant safes. There was gold locked in the two safes, and it was good. And the giant safes were aboard a British train. The train was destined for Eastern Europe to fund the British forces fighting the Crimean War. Edward Pierce stated the gold was worth £25,000 and aroused the criminal element. But there had never been a robbery from a moving train before. And Edward Pierce said "All anyone ever thinks about is money." And it was good.

Sean Connery plays Edward Pierce, a comely yet conniving thief of thieves, who decides for his next project to lift the Crimean Gold from a train bound for Eastern Europe. The character Edward Pierce is loosely based on real-life thief William Pierce who enacted one of the greatest train heists in the 1850's. The very opening of the movie is Connery's voice-over explaining the gold, the safes, and the whereabouts of the four keys. Immediately, we understand that his initial goal is to acquire the keys to steal the gold.

He solicits the help of fellow pick-pocket and lock-smith ("the best screws-man in England) Edward Agar (also a real-life figure involved in the 1855 heist) played by Donald Sutherland, and the beautiful Leslie-Anne Down as Miriam. The first half of the film is Connery and Sutherland investigating the location of each key, its owner, and a possible weakness in the keys' owner. Their first target is Mr Edgar Trent, head of the bank entrusted with the dispatch of the gold. Connery discovers Trent's routine to discover a weakness. We see an imagined scene in which Trent rejects the solicitations of a young woman to which Connery remarks in voice-over: "No respectable man is that respectable!" This first segment demonstrates how the film is organized, through the investigation and acquisition of each key which is duplicated care of Sutherland. The last act is the actual heist.

Blessed are they that experience this pure entertainment from beginning to end. Of course the bad guys are all colorful characters with not only shrewdness but wit to match, while the upright members of society who hold the keys to the gold are painted as bland and stodgy bores. Every scene is replete with humor and sarcasm, and Sutherland and Connery make an unlikely pair of complementary underworlds. And this heist must shortly come to pass. Amen.
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Weak directing from Michael Crichton
SnoopyStyle27 December 2013
In 1854 England, Edward Pierce (Sean Connery) plans a daring theft of a shipment of gold being transported monthly from London to Folkestone to finance the Crimean War. He recruits pickpocket Robert Agar (Donald Sutherland), his actress girlfriend Miriam (Lesley-Anne Down), and various other co-conspirators. The safe has 4 keys which must be copied. Then the gold must be stolen from a moving train.

Michael Crichton wrote the novel based loosely on the real events. He then wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. This is strictly his show, and the weakest part is his direction. The jokes are on the page but rarely translated to laughs on the screen. The pacing is ponderous. Crichton just doesn't have the directing gene. The action is right there with Sean Connery crawling on top of the train. There are some great stunts going on. Clean Willy climbing the walls is very compelling. But the tension isn't in any of these scenes. Crichton doesn't know how to film action. This movie desperately needs a better director.
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Thoroughly enjoyable and witty caper.
rmax3048235 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Maybe not the great train robbery but a pretty good one.

Michael Crighton is not an artist but he's a fine storyteller. Often his films are better than his novels. But everything comes together in this one -- script, score, direction, photography, and performances. How does someone like Leslie Anne Down come to look so droopy-eyed and lovely? And how come Sean Connery looks so good and so sexy as he ages? (A criminal act, if you ask me.) Donald Southerland is the epitome of an 1855 criminal rogue. Goldsmith's score is lively and reminiscent of Prokoviev's Lieutenant Kije.

The whole enterprise is witty, well thought out, and engrossing. There's an excruciating byplay between Connery and the younger wife of an old banker. They are having tea al fresco watching the workmen build an "ancient" water wheel out of old parts. Neither of them cracks a smile as they talk about how the parts are bolted tightly together instead of screwed, how the joints must be tightly fitted ("so rare," remarks the lady), and how America is "a land of many prominent erections." Connery probably has the best lines. One of them is keen. His girl friend, Downe, demands of him, "Do you ever tell the truth?" He smirks slightly and answers, "No." I'm uncertain about whether to explain exactly why this exchange is so funny because I don't want to insult anyone who already knows. But for any kids who may be reading, this exchange of lines constitutes a "logical paradox." If you are asked if you ever tell the truth and you deny it, well then you are lying in your response, which means you must be telling the truth. The answer is both true and false at the same time, as is this sentence, "This statement is false." Sorry, a little tedious, I know, but that's the sort of thing you find in this film.

The script will also give you an entertaining lesson on the life and lingo of early Victorian England. You learn what a "jack" is and what "a ratter" is and what a "crib" is. The moral calculus of the film is a little wedged, what with Connery having strangled to death a shrimpy squealcat who didn't deserve being murdered by any but "The Godfather" standards.

It's not all intrigue and planning though. The climax is filled with rip-roaring action. Crighton has said that when they were shooting the scene in which Connery is crawling along the top of the train, the coat he was holding accidentally was blown out of his hands but the actor stayed in character, turned around and retrieved it.

You won't regret catching this if you can manage it. Kind of a family movie and a nicely rendered one.
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"He'll get twenty years for that." Great heist flick.
poolandrews31 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The First Great Train Robbery is set in Victorian England in 1855 during the Crimean War while Great Britain was at war with Imperial Russia, to pay the soldiers £25,000 worth of gold is transported to the Crimean Peninsula every month starting at the London branch of the Huddleston and Bradford bank & across England by train in two several inch thick safe's which require four keys to open. No-one has ever robbed a moving train before but suave criminal Edward Pierce (Sean Connery) & his partner Miriam (Lesley-Anne Downe) comes up with an elaborate & daring plan to do just that. Each of the four keys are stored separately so finding them & copying them is the first thing Edward & his men need to do, then the hard work really starts...

This British production was written & directed by Michael Critchton based on his own 1975 novel which was simply titled Great Train Robbery, apparently the 'First' was added to the title to distance itself from the real great train robbery of the 60's. The film apparently is a fairly accurate adaptation of the novel although the end is changed slightly & a subplot involving a 12 year old prostitute was also dropped. Based on true events that indeed took place in 1855 the film doesn't really strive for historic accuracy & is a crime caper in the mould of The Italian Job (1969) with a charismatic & likable criminal & his gang staging a daring heist to steal lots of gold & a throughly entertaining tale it is too, I have to say I liked it a lot. I liked the character's, Sean Connery's character in particular is very suave & likable, I love the innuendo filled conversation he has with Edgar Trent's wife, Donald Sutherland's key maker Agar provides good support although in the book it was he who turned Pierce into the police & there's plenty of colourful Victorian character's to flesh the film out as well. The film has a decent pace although it's not the most incident packed ever made, the film has lots of great sequences from the tension filled scenes where they steal & copy the the keys to the exciting climax where Pierce has to make his way across the roof of a speeding train. If you like crime heist films then this is one of the best.

Director Crichton does a good job & the film looks splendid with sumptuous Victorian England production design, I would expect a lot of time effort & energy was spent on making The First Great Train Robbery look so good. Animal lovers should beware, although not in the UK since it's cut, because there's a ratting scene where a dog attacks some rats. The film showcase's both the rich splendour of the wealthy inhabitants of Victorian England (there's a great scene early on in a mens club where several gents scoff at the idea of women being able to vote) & the squalid slums of the poorer inhabitants. There's a great attention to detail throughout including a recreation of a flower show held at Crystal Palace.

With a supposed budget of about £6,000,000 the film is well made throughout with impressive production values & period design. Filmed in Ireland & here in England. The acting is very good with Sean Connery making a very likable villain but one who also has a dark side when needed, British ballet dancer Wayne Sleep did all his own stunts including scaling that prison wall while there are numerous other notable faces involved.

The First Great Train Robbery wasn't the first by any means but definitely still stands as a great heist film that has eye catching period detail, a good solid plot & a great cast. A really good film & it's as simple & straight forward as that.
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No Respectable Connery is THAT Respectable
tom-darwin21 December 2006
It was nearly certain that 1903's "The Great Train Robbery," popularly known as the first movie, would be remade in some form at some point. It's just fortunate that it turned out to be a clever, imaginative action/adventure rather than the dull-minded, big-budget exploitations we've had to endure in remakes & sequels in recent years. Conman and "cracksman" (bank robber) Edward Pierce aka John Sims (Connery) masquerades as a "sharp businessman" to enter a London gentleman's club and scope out a "ring-flash pull." He settles on the British Army's monthly payroll for the Crimean campaign, a shipment of solid gold sent in two special Chubb safes on a guarded railroad car. Much of the film is devoted to the collection of the four keys needed to open the two safes: two kept in a very secure railway office, one by "square-rigged" bank President Trent (Webb) and one by oversexed bank manager Fowler (Terris). To do all this & the climactic robbery, Sims assembles a colorful crew: theater actress Miriam (Down), who's also his mistress; pickpocket & "screwsman" Agar (Sutherland); driver & strong-arm Barlow (Downing); and "snakesman" Clean Willy (Sleep, in a unique & outstanding role), who can reputedly climb "a wall of glass." Sutherland has one of his best roles as the gifted safecracker who's both deft and hilariously awkward. Down combines sexiness & funniness as well as Marilyn Monroe ever did & it's an injustice that no one else has ever said so. But there's no match for Connery in a role that was made for him: a charming, polished, gentleman rogue ("No respectable gentleman is THAT respectable," he insists), as long on charisma as he is short on honor. Sims will resort to anything, even murder, to protect his interests & get what he wants, but it's impossible to hate him. Instead, Connery gives an outlet to the villain in each of us, the side that wants to stick it to the Man by robbing a bank or bamboozling the IRS, but can't be aired in real life by anything more dastardly than voting Mickey Mouse for President without fear of arrest. Prolific novelist and erstwhile doctor Crichton, in his first directorial effort, exercises firm control in bringing his own novel to the screen, seeming to know exactly what he wants to say & how to say it. Every time it seems that the film is about to lag, it somehow just picks up again--even at the very end--making it difficult to find a place to get a soda & popcorn refill or a bathroom break. Make your theater logistical arrangements carefully before setting out on this train.
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A bit slow but well worth seeing...even if much of it is fiction.
MartinHafer5 December 2020
I was very surprised when I saw that "The First Great Train Robbery" was written and directed by Michael Crichton. This is because Crichton is normally associated with sci-fi and fantasy, such as "The Andromeda Strain", "Coma", "Westworld" and "Jurassic Park". But apparently in 1975, Crichton wrote a book about this actual robbery in 1855...though the film ended up being highly fictionalized, particularly the ending.

The first two-thirds of the film is very slow and meticulous. I didn't mind this too much, though I am sure this will lose a lot of viewers. My suggestion is bear with it. First, it is well crafted. Second, the look of VIctorian London is take time to enjoy what you are seeing. The final portion is much more exciting and concerns the robbery itself. It's amazing to see Sean Connery doing his own stunts* and the footage is incredible...and it must have been incredible to see on the big screen.

Overall, a slow and deliberate movie that is great provided you don't mind the pace or that too much of the story is fictionalized in order to make the story more cinematic. The ending, in particular, is pure fiction and the real case, though interesting, is much different.

I do have two further comments. First, the sound on this DVD was abominable...with music that is so much louder than the dialog. You really do need the closed captions in order to watch the's that bad. Second, one mistake I noticed is that the 'gold' in the film was ridiculously lightweight...and seeing Connery and Sutherland EASILY tossing the bags of gold off the train (as if they were filled with newspapers or scones) was silly.

*I know that they touted how Sean Connery did the insane stunt of climbing across the moving train and he clearly did. But in a few scenes, despite the hype, I do strongly suspect that a stuntman was occasionally used...such as when Connery's character is hanging off the sides of the moving train.
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An Exciting Victorian Heist
fletcherc2130 November 2017
The Great Train Robbery follows the standard heist movie blueprint. The team gets assembled to pull off an impossible job, they do all of the complicated prep work, then there is a last minute complication that makes it much more difficult than they expected. What stands out here is the setting, Victorian England, and the much smaller crew of thieves than usual. Most heist movies have a huge crew of 10+ characters that each need to have their characters explored. Here there is just the mastermind (Sean Connery), the pickpocket (Donald Sutherland), the girl (Lesley-Anne Downs), and the greaseman (Wayne Sleep). There are a few others, but their characters are so minor that they do not even get names. Rather than get sidetracked covering side characters, there is a strong focus on moving the plot forward that makes the entire movie more interesting.

What also stands out is the impressive stunts that were done mostly without stuntmen. Wayne Sleep really scales a wall and Sean Connery really walks across the top of a moving train. In today's CGI heavy film industry, it is refreshing to see an older movie that stays simpler with its big stunts, but they feel much realer, because they are. A lot of the movie relies on Sean Connery's natural charisma, which is the secret to a good heist movie, and Connery holds up very well compared to Clooney and Sinatra in the Ocean's movies and Newman and Redford in The Sting.
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