25 December 2013 | l_rawjalaurence
Low-Key Retelling of a Celebrated Case
Broadcast in two parts - "The Robber's Tale" and "The Copper's Tale" - THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY retells the famous events of August 1963 when over £2m. was stolen from a mail train traveling from Glasgow to London. The events have been extensively retold elsewhere, notably in Peter Yates' fictionalized version ROBBERY (1967) with Stanley Baker, or BUSTER (1988) a comedy-drama with Phil Collins as robber Buster Edwards. "The Robber's Tale" (dir. Julian Jarrold) focuses specifically on Bruce Reynolds (Luke Evans) as the brains behind the whole operation; the more celebrated crook Ronald Biggs (Jack Gordon) - who passed away the night the program received its first broadcast - receives scant attention. "The Copper's Tale" looks at the painstaking ways in which Tommy Butler (Jim Broadbent) went about investigating the case and bringing the criminals to justice. Stylistically speaking the production is very much in keeping with current British television costume dramas, with low-key, almost washed-out lighting, lots of period detail (for example, the obligatory London bus from the mid-Sixties) passing across the back of the frame, or a couple of young mothers pushing their prams round the park) and plenty of focus on character through shot/reverse shot sequences. The style is diffuse, with the emphasis placed on ambiance as much as plot. "The Robber's Tale" actually proves something of a disappointment; not a lot happens in terms of action, while some of the (predominantly youthful) cast simply do not seem convincing as mid- Sixties London hoodlums. Perhaps they might have done more research into the behavior, mannerisms and (most significantly) the argot of that period. "The Copper's Tale" is a lot better, not least because of the interplay - or should that be rivalry - between Butler and his immediate subordinate Frank Williams (Robert Glenister). Although ostensibly on the same side, they seem unable to form a united front, at least professionally. Butler might be a good cop, but he certainly lacks any management abilities.