Movie Review: The First Great Train Robbery (1979)
“Never have so few taken so much from so many.”
The First Great Train Robbery (1979)
Director: Michael Crichton
Cast: Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland, Lesley-Anne Down
Synopsis: In Victorian England, a master criminal makes elaborate plans to steal a shipment of gold from a moving train.
The First Great Train Robbery has the distinction of an unusual setting (Victorian-era Britain) for a heist movie, and benefits greatly from the presence of Lesley-Anne Down (13th Child) who, while no great shakes as an actress, makes an absolutely stunning woman. She plays the mistress of Sean Connery (The Anderson Tapes, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), a master thief who hatches a plan to become the first thief to steal gold bullion from a moving train. His sidekick is Donald Sutherland (National Lampoon’s Animal House, JFK), sporting a dodgy British/Irish accent, who provides most of the film’s comic moments. To be fair, the film works better as a straightforward heist movie than a comedy, but the touches of humour at least prevent the story from becoming bogged down in detail.
Probably the film’s biggest drawback is Connery’s character, who is a little too cold and remote to root for. He has no endearing traits, and you get the impression that he wouldn’t think twice about double-crossing his partners, even though you’re never given any solid reason for thinking it. As with all heist movies, the robbery itself is the best part of the film, and Connery impresses as he performs his own stunts on top of a speeding train as it passes under a succession of frighteningly low bridges. The First Great Train Robbery isn’t the greatest heist movie you’ll ever see, but it’s an entertaining enough time-filler.
(Reviewed 7th February 2012)