Genre Grandeur – The Great Train Robbery (1979) – Rhyme and Reason

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For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Heist Films, here’s a review of The Great Train Robbery (1979) by SG Liput of Rhyme and Reason

Thanks again to Drew of Drew’s Movie Reviews.  for choosing this month’s genre.

Due to the Jewish holiday of Passover which falls out this year at the end of April, I will be mostly unavailable for a week, so I decided to postpone GG until May.

May’s Genre has been chosen by Damien of Riley Central. We will be reviewing our favorite Adventure Movies.

Please get me your submissions by the 25th of May by sending them to  Try to think out of the box! Great choice Damien!

Let’s see what SG thought of this movie:


trainThe Great Train Robbery (1979)


People back in olden days

Believed some things could not be done,

Assumed tests lost ere they were won

And looked like fools with cheeks ablaze.


None could rob a train amid

The locks and guards and moving cars.

No one could steal golden bars,

And so it was till someone did.




MPAA rating: PG



I had planned to review this film for last month’s crime Genre Grandeur but ran out of time, so luckily this month’s heist genre gives me a second chance. The Great Train Robbery, or The First Great Train Robbery as it’s known outside the U.S., was directed by author Michael Crichton, who adapted his own book and based the plot and characters after an actual gold heist in 1855.


I’ll be honest: heist movies are not my favorite genre so I haven’t seen very many. Usually, they cajole viewers into rooting for the bad guys, making them as likable as possible to compensate for the fact that they are criminals. Thus, while some overcome this negative through sheer innovation and coolness (Inception), a heist film’s appeal often depends on its cast. Luckily, The Great Train Robbery has two acting greats in Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, who play a gentleman thief and a pickpocket who join forces for the crime of the century, stealing a huge wartime gold shipment from a moving train. Connery also starred in one of the few other heist films I really like, 1999’s Entrapment, and he’s just as endearing in the much younger and more humorous role of Edward Pierce. He and Sutherland have even better chemistry than he and Lesley-Anne Down as Pierce’s lover and fellow schemer. Despite their overall charm, a betrayal midway through reminds viewers that these are still criminals, willing to be ruthless if need be.


Naturally, the other key ingredient for a heist film is all the clever tactics and tricks that go into the theft. There’s quite a bit of that, though Victorian-era methods stand in for modern-day heists’ reliance on technology. In collecting copies of keys and detailing ruses and jail breaks and carefully timed mini-heists, the film may make you wonder, “So where’s the train in the title?” Wait for it; it’s there, along with lead bars, a dead cat, and some stunt work from Connery worthy of James Bond. With so much leading up to the heist, though, the happy-go-lucky denouement is too easy and casual to be believable.


The Great Train Robbery has all the components of a good heist movie, but the whole doesn’t live up to some of its parts. A slow beginning yields to some good sneaky cleverness, but Connery and Sutherland are the ones who make it worth watching. Coma is a better example of Crichton’s directorial talents, but The Great Train Robbery is a pleasant non-sci-fi diversion.


Best line: (Agar, played by Sutherland) “We’re partners, aren’t we? Of course, if you’re trying to say that you don’t trust me completely…”   (Pierce) “I don’t trust you at all.”   (Agar) “Good.”




Rank: List Runner-Up



© 2016 S. G. Liput

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4 thoughts on “Genre Grandeur – The Great Train Robbery (1979) – Rhyme and Reason

  1. Pingback: Genre Grandeur March Finale – Inside Man (2006) – Drew’s Movie Reviews |

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