Hubby and I almost overlooked The Great Train Robbery, a BBC production from 2013 that’s been sitting on our Netflix list for quite some time. Having finally got round to streaming it last night, I have nothing but great things to say about this great British TV drama that’s almost as clever as the crime itself.
From the creator of Broadchurch, this miniseries features a distinguished cast and more than enough 1960s fashion, music and cars for a decent nostalgia trip. It also presents two different perspectives on the group dynamics and power struggles behind the real-life multi-million pound robbery in 1963, which stunned the nation and still remains Britain's most notorious crime.
The stellar cast of familiar faces includes Tim Pigott-Smith, James Fox, Martin Compston, Robert Glenister and Jim Broadbent (briefly reunited with Gwyneth Strong, who he also appeared with in Only Fools and Horses).
It’s a drama divided into two parts: first, the tale of the criminal gang who pulled off the £2.6 million theft, followed by the story of the subsequent police investigation in part 2. On a superficial level this could be mistaken for a classic cops and robbers saga, but it actually goes deeper than that.
Both installments are linked by a focus on the leaders:
daring criminal mastermind Bruce Reynolds
and chief detective Tommy Butler of the Metropolitan Police.
These fascinating character studies reveal a few stark contrasts but many more surprising similarities between two personalities on opposite sides of the law. We learn that it’s not easy to pull together and hold together an elite team to execute/solve the crime of the century. Life is lonely, stressful and tough at the top, regardless of whether you are in charge of the Met or the “train gang”.
Although the infamous robbery took place a few years before I was born, hearing about and seeing old familiar places such as Aylesbury and Mentmore on the telly brought back fond memories.
Even lovely Luton gets a look in, albeit only on a road map!
And here’s my “parental guidance” announcement: why Netflix rated this as “TV-Mature Audience” escapes me. There’s no sex, the brief violence is certainly not graphic, and the only profanities occasionally uttered are typically British “bleedin’, bollocks” and “wanker”. I’m not spilling any beans by revealing that villainous deeds are not glorified here and there’s a strong moral message that crime doesn’t pay. Netflix’s rating seems as excessively severe as the sentencing during the subsequent trial.
In terms of a refreshing recount of a legendary heist, The Great Train Robbery is highly recommended. As this two-parter sharply explores, there are two sides to every story. Oh, and the quality of acting and attention to period detail is outstanding. It would almost be a crime to miss it.
The Great Train Robberyis also available on DVD and streaming from Amazon & AppleTV :
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