06th Jan2014

‘The Great Train Robbery’ DVD Review

by Paul Metcalf


In the United Kingdom, just like any other country, we have our tales of gangsters and crooks that become legendary, not only for the crime but for the characters who took part in them.  One of the biggest legends was The Great Train Robbery, which personally I first found out about through Buster starring Phil Collins, and now of course we have the BBC mini-series that was shown at the end of 2013, and is now released on DVD.

The Great Train Robbery comes in two parts, first looking at the robbery from the view-point of the criminals themselves, then the hunt which focuses on the police and their struggles to capture each member of the gang.  With more of a focus on Bruce Reynolds (Luke Evans), the so-called mastermind and planner of the robbery the drama looks to take the glamour out of the tale, not focusing on the characters like Buster Edwards (Neil Maskell) or Robbie Biggs (Jack Gordon) who are the more famous (or infamous) of the gang.

I found the second part of the drama the more interesting, which focused on the police tactics in identifying the gang, but that’s not to say that the first part isn’t interesting.  What it shows in fact is that the gang found themselves in a situation where in truth they were out of their depth, and the amount of money they stole spurred on the government to take a harsh stance on them not only in the police hunt but in the sentences they were given.  Where Luke Evans as Reynolds is a scene stealing performance on the side of the criminals, Jim Broadbent is by far the star attraction when it comes to the police.  Playing the role of Tommy Butler a police man on a mission to track down all the robbers he shows a character almost obsessed with the chase, with Reynolds being the elusive trophy that would finally bring him closure.  Broadbent plays him in such a way as you feel pity for the character, especially in his later years when retirement was closing in and his continued obsession with the robbery was looked down on by his superiors.

Although The Great Train Robbery was stylishly filmed and the story does keep you engrossed one of the problems it has is the factual detail that is included.  I can’t list all the mistakes that were made, but you can search on the internet and you’ll find that details like the type of police cars used and other such details were incorrect for the decade in which this is set, which is the 1960s.  I will also state that although The Great Train Robbery is set in and around London, anybody who lives around the Bradford and Leeds area will continually see landmarks and buildings that are from these cities. This is a small detail but sometimes it does get in the way of the narrative of the story.  As one of the production companies behind it was Screen Yorkshire though, I think we can forgive them for this.

For the most part I enjoyed The Great Train Robbery a lot, especially for the performances of Luke Evans and Jim Broadbent, the cast as a whole were good too, especially people like Robert Glenister and Neil Maskell.  When you can get past the factual errors, The Great Train Robbery is a good re-telling of a historical event that is often overshadowed by the controversies that followed such as the escape of Ronnie Biggs.  To its credit with taking the focus away from characters like him and Buster Edwards, The Great Train Robbery makes the audience focus on the actual robbery and not the legend that surrounds it.

The Great Train Robbery is out on DVD in the United Kingdom now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek.com

Comments are closed.