Follow TV Tropes

Following

Film / The Train

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/baead1113279f5850516887a6f56d9f5.jpg
Advertisement:

The Train is a 1964 World War II film directed by John Frankenheimer, starring Burt Lancaster, Paul Scofield, and Jeanne Moreau.

The year is 1944 and the Allies are closing in on the Nazis in Paris. German Colonel von Waldheim (Scofield), an avid admirer of great art, secures a train to transport France's greatest paintings to Germany. The French Resistance, which includes SNCF area inspector Paul Labiche (Lancaster), are determined to make sure they don't lose their greatest artistic treasures, but they have orders from London to make sure the paintings are not damaged in the process.

Not a huge hit at the time, The Train has long since been Vindicated by History, now widely regarded as "the last great black and white adventure movie" and a forerunner to films like Die Hard. It was even ranked No. 1 in Trains magazine's special issue, "The 100 Greatest Train Movies."

Advertisement:


This film contains examples of:

  • Blatant Lies: Von Waldheim's It's All About Me attitude is shown early on when he swindles an authorization for the train with the condition that the train will be used to mobilize supplies to the Western Front (the Allies' invasion) if it is necessary; and Von Waldheim lying that the train is already en route to Germany when this request comes through (he sends it on its way right after he finishes the call).
  • Bittersweet Ending: The train is eventually derailed without damaging the art, but countless people have been killed in the quest to secure it, both Resistance Fighters and innocent civilians who were first used as hostages to stop Labiche at the climax and then killed senselessly at the end when the train is stopped. And on top of all this, The Hero Labiche may not even respect the historical and national value the art represents.
  • Advertisement:
  • Cool Train: The train with the paintings, as well as a heavily-armored (and armed) Nazi train that appears early on.
  • Cultured Warrior / Wicked Cultured: Von Waldheim. Considering he is a Nazi, the emphasis is obviously on "wicked".
  • The Determinator: Both Labiche and Von Waldheim will stop at nothing to accomplish their goals, Labiche dealing with a leg injury and Von Waldheim only accepting defeat when all of his men abandon him.
  • Dwindling Party: With Labiche as the Sole Survivor.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: A couple of other German officers that appear throughout the film proclaim their utter loathing of Von Waldheim and his obsession to get his train to Germany no matter what, because being of a higher rank and with special orders (which he swindled from the commander of the French Front), his requests to mobilize and repair the train supersede those of extremely vital supply trains for the frontline soldiers. At the very end, Major Herren also manages to see how obsessed Von Waldheim is during the latter's Villainous Breakdown (ordering the train be put back on its tracks (which is impossible) and then ordering the train's troops to take over a caravan of retreating soldiers that is passing (which would mean kick the caravan's soldiers off to free space for the art, leaving them behind to be captured or die to the Allied forces)) and ends up leading the troops' Screw This, I'm Outta Here!.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Von Waldheim's first scene has him discussing the stolen art with the museum curator, coming off as intelligent, cultured and sensitive (we learn that he's preserved the art and refused to send it to Germany). Then his men show up to plunder the museum.
  • Hannibal Lecture: At the end of the film when the train is finally derailed - with the art safely intact - Labiche and von Waldheim come face to face, with Labiche armed with a submachine gun and a desire to kill clearly in his eyes. Von Waldheim calmly proceeds to chastise Labiche for not appreciating the precious art that he has spent the entire film fighting to save, even going so far as to observe that the valuable paintings, part of his national heritage, means about as much to Labiche as "a string of pearls to an ape", meaning that Labiche can never truly appreciate his own victory, while von Waldheim and others like him will always be able to appreciate the great art in ways that Labiche cannot. Labiche guns von Waldheim down anyway.
  • Human Shield: Toward the end of the movie, about thirty hostages are forced to ride on the locomotive to keep Labiche from blowing it up.
  • I Shall Taunt You: The ending when von Waldheim mocks Labiche for not understanding the value of the art he has spent the whole film fighting to secure. The original ending called for von Waldheim to engage Labiche in a shoot out, but once Paul Scofield was cast as von Waldheim it was felt that physically he would be no match for the rugged, larger than life Burt Lancaster, even if only in a gun fight, so the ending was changed to have von Waldheim criticize Labiche for not valuing his own country's national heritage represented by the art.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. Station master Jacques' nephew Robert joins the Resistance after his uncle is executed by the Germans. He ends up getting gunned down by Lt. Pilzer.
  • It's All About Me: All von Waldheim cares about is his train with its art cargo; and any other trains no matter how important for the rest of the Nazis (like supplies for the troops on the French front) will have to wait until his own passes. As well, Papa Boule only cares about "his" train — only he will run it, only he will sabotage it, he cares none about what gets in the way of his train running smoothly that he didn't have a hand on (including a plan to try to prevent it from getting blown up by Allied bombers and slowing it down) and when Labiche almost manages to convince von Waldheim to not shoot Papa Boule for sabotaging said train by reminding him that Boule drove right through the bombing without slowing down, Papa Boule insults von Waldheim and admits to being the saboteur because Labiche implies that Boule will stop being the train's engineer (and, being an "old man", probably didn't saw who did the sabotage), sealing his fate.
  • Kick the Dog: The Nazis do a lot of this—well, they are Nazis, after all. It starts with executing Papa Boule and culminates with shooting the hostages.
  • La Résistance: Most of the main characters.
  • The Men First: Labiche points it out clearly on his Establishing Character Moment: as much as it will paint him as a jerk to the rest of the Resistance, he will not put more value on the art over that of human lives (he actually suggests just blowing up everything and accept the fact that at least the Nazis didn't got it). When he's finally convinced to perform the mission, the fact that almost everybody that helps him dies and probably only he will mourn them really pisses him off. This is an obvious contrast to von Waldheim.
  • Mook Lieutenant: Several, particularly Lt. Pilzer and Sgt. Schwartz. Captain Schmidt gets a particularly bad wake-up call, too.
  • Nazi Gold: The plot revolves around preventing the art from from becoming this rather than finding it.
  • Nazi Nobleman: Colonel von Waldheim is not explicitly stated to have a title, but the "von" in his name, along with his demeanor and taste in art, suggest that he comes from an upper-class background.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Burt Lancaster sounds as New York as ever as the French Labiche, reportedly because he was "tone deaf" when it came to accents. Averted with Paul Scofield, who makes a respectable stab at a German accent.
  • One Last Job: As the liberation of Paris is expected any day, the resistance fighters all expect this to be their last major job of the war. This leads to Retirony for Pesquet and Didont.
  • Only Sane Man: Major Herren, who tries to make von Waldheim keep perspective of his mission (especially in the final scenes).
  • Refusal of the Call: Labiche at first says he won't risk lives for paintings.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Labiche is motivated more by a desire to avenge the death of one of his oldest and dearest comrades than he is to reclaim and protect the train's art.
  • Sarcastic Confession: When Christine is hiding Labiche in the wine cellar of her hotel, the Germans come asking where he is.
    Christine: Yes, I see him every day, and General de Gaulle too. They're my best customers, and I keep them cool in the wine cellar.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: When Labiche finally manages to derail the train and there is absolutely no way to get it back moving (no matter how much von Waldheim orders it), the troops on the train (led by Herren) finally notice how obsessed von Waldheim is and call it quits, boarding a convoy of troops that are retreating from the Allies' march and outright refusing von Waldheim's orders to move the art to the trucks (which would require them to kick out said troops).
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Papa Boule's trick with the franc pieces in the oil lines of the locomotive is a real World War II sabotage method.
    • Labiche handling the repair of the burned-out rod bearing, as he pours the molten Babbitt metal, breaks down the mold and clears away the casting flash, and after reassembling the bearing takes the rod from the overhead crane grab and manhandles it to the locomotive for reinstallation. Somebody must have given Lancaster a short course in foundry work.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Von Waldheim finishes his "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Labiche by asking him if he even understands what he's fighting for, believing that he doesn't cares about the art. Von Waldheim is right on that aspect: Labiche just turns around to look at the dead French hostages for a couple of seconds before turning back and emptying his machine gun on Von Waldheim.
  • Spy Speak: "Tell Jacques the cheese is on the train, and save a piece for Pierre and Raoul."
  • Suicide by Cop: The fate of Colonel Von Waldheim.
  • Train Job: Multiple attempts to derail, reroute, slow down and mark the train for Allied forces (so they won't blow it sky-high and destroy the art) occur throughout the film.
  • Trash the Set: A rail station that was already decommissioned in Real Life gets blown sky-high in an Allied bombardment about halfway through (lots of explosives were buried alongside and beneath the train tracks for the pyrotechnic effects). Papa Boulle shows that nobody will stop "his train" without his say-so by rolling it straight through all that hell without slowing down.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Papa Boule, the old train engineer and apparent Parental Substitute whom Labiche tries to save from being killed by the Nazis for sabotage.
  • Vehicle Title
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The movie is based on the book Le Front de l'art by Rose Valland.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Col. von Waldheim becomes increasingly crazed and obsessed as the movie progresses. The camera is knocked into dutch angles when he finally totally loses it.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Pilzer, who shoots the young boy Resistance member (although to be fair to Pilzer, it was dark and it's doubtful either he or von Waldheim knew it was a child).

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report