Monday, May 30, 2011
#128: The Italian Job
The 1969 one of course. Not so much an obvious 'of course' but it feels good to be a little condescending about the sequel and say 'of course' not the silly remake but the original. Because if there's a genre that revolves around cars and heists, Italian Job is perhaps the original.
The good thing about the average heist movie is that you know the plot from the beginning- a group of people are going to attempt robbing a bank or a jewellery store and there'll be a hitch. Either the plot will go wrong or the modus operandi will be a treat to watch or dividing the spoils will be an issue or all three. If it's someone of the calibre of a Melville or a Dassin piecing it all together, the drama will be intense. If it's someone like a Soderbergh, humor will be an integral part. The Italian Job fearlessly takes the middle path and comes out unscathed.
Michael Caine (Crocker) is a recently released prisoner from England who has a plan to take down a consignment of gold in Turin. He convinces Bridger (Noel Coward), a man of authority on the right side of law to assist him in the plan. With 4 million USD on stake, Crocker goes about assembling a team of experts to finish the job. The hitch in this movie is that the Italian mafia has got wind of this plan and wouldn't let him get away with it. The Italian Job has Michael Caine at the peak of his acting prowess and he carries the movie with an elan befitting a sophisticated criminal. The world was yet to see him in defining roles in movies such as Get Carter and Sleuth but this was as good as anything that he was going to do.
Noel Coward with his limited on-screen time leaves an impact even as an edge-of-the-seat background score keeps you hooked to the fast-paced action. Replete with some stirring chase sequences and a terrific open-ended climax, the movie saves it's best for the last fifteen minutes. Not too many movies can pull off an open-ended climax but this one does it a manner guaranteed to leave the viewer smiling at the end of it. One can't help but wonder if another British filmmaker who married a pop sensation was inspired for yet another cult movie from the climax of The Italian Job. That apart, the movie's iconic lines and sequences made it one of the most-loved British films of all time.
When it finishes, I am not sure if all of it is as timeless as a movie like this should've been, but you sure as hell can't help but think of it as one neat movie.