The Train 4K UHD Review: “You talk about the war. I talk about what it costs!”

Based on a true story, director John Frankenheimer’s The Train (1964) is about the lengths the French Resistance went to, just before the Occupation ended, to stop the Nazis from taking a train full of rare, valuable French paintings to Berlin.

Leading the team of rail workers in on the plot is Paul Labiche (Burt Lancaster). His main foe is Colonel Franz von Waldheim (Paul Scofield), the Nazi who leads the theft. Waldheim argues these works will help the Third Reich stay afloat; but he doesn’t fool Rose Valland (Suzanne Flon), the conservationist with whom he shares an affinity for the art and from whom he steals it.

What began under director Arthur Penn as a low-octane tribute to the French and their efforts to save an important part of their cultural pride became—after Lancaster dismissed Penn—a far grittier actioner. And it’s more than just a thrill ride. The Train is concerned about whether protecting these paintings is worth the cost involved (i.e., the human lives sacrificed).

Answer: Yes.

The movie clocks in at 133 minutes. Yet, once the actual train gets going, The Train moves briskly. It’s among Frankenheimer’s best, most well-crafted pictures. Of note is the phenomenal black & white cinematography by Jean Tournier and Walter Wottitz. In some ways, I prefer The Train to The Manchurian Candidate (1962), the movie for which Frankenheimer seems to garner the most acclaim.

As for Lancaster, he was The Man. To prep for the film, he learned about railway engineering. And most of his stunts he did himself. He compels. Scofield does too, and other members of the cast turn in solid work as well, including Jeanne Moreau (who plays the owner of a railway café) and Michel Simon (who plays a train driver).

The Train is an exciting, thoughtful action film. I recommend it.

The Kino Lorber 4K UHD + Blu-ray release is based on a brand new HDR/Dolby Vision master, a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative. The quality is outstanding. Special features include audio commentary by Frankenheimer and by filmmaker/historian Steve Mitchell and author Steven Joy Rubin; the isolated score by Maurice Jarre; the 1964 making-of documentary (available only on the Blu-ray); and the TV spot and the theatrical teaser and trailer (also available only on the Blu-ray).

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Jack Cormack

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