The First Great Train Robbery 1979 ****

For his first film as director, coming in hot on the back of Westworld and Coma, Michael Crichton came up with the idea of a period heist film, setting up a Victorian milieu and then ‘shooting The French Connection’ in it. Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, memorably disguised as a corpse at one point, are the train-robbers, and the plot hinges on an astonishingly well-timed intervention on the train’s roof as it goes under a series of perilously low bridges. Convincingly set in a bygone day untouched by CGI, this sequence is the icing on the cake of an ingenious caper, with Lesley Anne Down supplying the glamour and lashings of the kind of period detail Crichton imagined.


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