Here's Arrow's official synopsis:
Synopsis: ONE MAN’S IMPOSSIBLE MISSION – TO SAVE HIS COUNTRY’S PRICELESS TREASURES
Directed by John Frankenheimer at the peak of his powers, The Train was made during a tremendous run of top-class pictures that also included Birdman of Alcatraz, Seven Days in May and The Manchurian Candidate, with Seconds soon to follow.
France, 1944. Art lover and fanatical Nazi Colonel Von Waldheim has plundered a Paris museum for its masterpieces, including works by Van Gogh, Picasso and Cezanne. His intention is to have them transported by rail to Berlin, but one man stands in his way. Aware that the Allied forces are fast approaching the French capital, Resistance fighter Labiche need only stall the train for a few more days, but he’ll have to use all of his wits and skills to do so.
Featuring two Oscar-winners in its lead roles – Burt Lancaster as Labiche and Paul Scofield as Von Waldheim – and Jeanne Moreau and Michel Simon in support, The Train combines star power with spectacular action sequences to produce a classic war movie.
Instead of a more traditional review I thought it'd be fun to do a running commentary for this. I jotted down my thoughts as the film played. It was my first time viewing so for the most part I paid attention unless I really needed to get a thought down.
There will be minor spoilers:
Silence in the opening minutes. Draws me into the German soldier.
An action/thriller film starting with people talking about art? Only in the classic days. Love it.
Love the font of the opening credits. Can't wait to see Burt. Haven't seen him in a film for a few months. Jeane Morreau is in this?? Yes!
Frankenheimer's deep-focus composition and camera movement are hypnotic.
The plot is about protecting art. France's National pride. Man, I love this.
Love how they have set up that Lancaster's character (Labiche) values his men's lives over art. Setting up his belief system.
"I'm too old to be careful" - great line by the engineer character (Papa Boule)
The composition is masterful when we see the shot--reverse shot of the engineer being lined up for execution.
Humor always breaks the tension. Such an effective tool to make me like a character. Labiche "you gonna tuck me in as well?" (when being closely watched by the Germans)
Awesome cut of the door closing to the station agent being struck in the face.
Love how Jeanne is being sucked into the story now as an unwilling participant at first. Now she's warming up to Burt. Interesting....of course, they're interrupted just as they're starting to connect. Great storytelling
Ok the train whistle is starting to get on my nerves.
That old lady who closed the gate and stepped aside for the train was dangerously close. Didn't seem like a stunt woman. Wow.
Authentic train derailing. Frankenheimer and collisions pre-CGI world. Love it
Burt did his own stunts. Falling on that bridge looked badass.
Damn stakes are high. All the French Resistance people are being killed.
Love this dialogue exchange: "No one will be hurt.." "No one's ever hurt. Just dead."
Lancaster's performance is on fire when he's told England simply wants to paint the train to mark it. Damn he was good.
Such a physically demanding role for Lancaster. When he lays the explosives on the tracks and runs. He sells it. When he slides down that rocky hillside -- jesus!
Paul Scofield as Colonel Von Waldheim is electric. His obsession. His defeat. Can't take my eyes off him.