It’s 1944, after having occupied Paris for the last four years the Nazis are pulling out of the city before the Allies arrive to liberate it. Colonel von Waldheim’s (Paul Scofield) only priority is to get looted irreplaceable masterpieces of art back to Germany.
Railway inspector and French Resistance fighter Paul Labiche (Burt Lancaster) is given the risky assignment to delay the train until the Allies arrive to save the priceless art and a large chunk of French culture and history. Questioning whether such a task is even worth risking a human life (“I won’t waste lives on paintings”) he reluctantly agrees.
Directed by John Frankenheimer this taut, intelligent, suspenseful story keeps moving with large set pieces and terrific acting with Lancaster and Scofield engaging in a battle of wills. The intricate ways the Resistance plan to stop the train with their little tricks along the way are inventive and very intelligent.
Unfortunately, they have their work cut out for them with their suspicious and focused adversaries. The black and white photography is beautiful to look at and the action scenes (having all been done for real) are just as impressive as ever.