The Great Train Robbery Reviews
But how does it stand up today? The story seems somewhat simplistic today: robbers rob train, get chased, get their comeuppance. However, this is no amateur piece. The narrative construction is sharp, the editing is well done and innovative for the time, and there is a surprisingly dramatic moment when the daughter finds her bound father and attempts to revive him.
Based on an 1896 story by Scott Marble ,this 1903 caper follows a group of bandits as they rob a train, make their escape, then have a confrontation with a group of local townspeople bent on vengeance. That's it.
There's more to it than that though. Yeah, it's pretty simple and straightforward, but this film pioneered a lot of now commonplace techniques like cross-cut editing, location shooting, and double exposures. And, unlike A Trip to the Moon, this one is more like real life as opposed to fantasy, and feels a tad documentary like.
This is a pretty influential and important film, and basically set the standard for the western genre especially, but also the action/heist genre as a whole. Unfortunately the version I saw had no soundtrack other than the cranking of the camera, and that's my only real complaint. Yeah, the cranking kinda fits with the movements of the train, but it gets real tedious real quick, especially since it plays for just under 12 minutes straight.
Some of the acting is over the top and hammy, and it makes things feel dated and cheesy, but it also kinda adds to the charm. It's ridiculously tame by today's standards, but I also have to give this a lot of credit for being ballsy with the violence, something that was probably rather jarring for audiences 110 years ago.
All in all, this is a fun movie. Yeah, it has since been eclipsed 1,000 times over, and, while it really deserves classic status for it's historical, social, and aesthetic merits, it also still works fine on its own terms as just a simple, entertaining movie.
In The Great Train Robbery, a ten minute short film (that was the feature length of the early cinema), a group of outlaws hijack a train and go off and steal people's money. That's bascically the whole story. That's it. Simple enough, right. Even with a simple setup like thid, the film still left me extremely confused. Why did it leave me confused? Well, for one thing, the film has not aged well. The cinematography looks like it's been dunked underwater and looks very blurry. I know filmmakers didn't have too much technology in 1903, but I didn't get it.
What also didn't help was that I watched this on YouTube. YouTube features a lot of early silent films, and the quality was very poor. In its original release, there was a live music score. During film feativals, whenever someone plays an old silent film, there's a live score. On YouTube, all I got for a score was an organ making really boring sounds during an exciting train robbery. Maybe if TCM dedided to show this at a film festival, with a live film score, and I got to see it, I might enjoy it a lot more.
Despite a so-called exciting story and a very cool final shot, The Great Train Robbery was a bore. The cinematography is a confused blur, the organ score is a dud, and the film is in bad shape for a film over 100 years old. This film was made by Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb. You'd think that this film would be in better shape. But time has not been too well for The Great Train Robbery and I was not too impressed.