Retro Review: The Italian Job

The-Italian-Job-1969-2Most children in this day and age are so accustomed to technology and what it can produce. In a world of HD, 3D and 1080P, tech is designed to make the fake look real, trapping kids in a media world where if something isn’t computer generated or made in the last 5 years, they don’t want to know it exists. Retro Review will be taking a look at some of the films that spawned in a very turbulent period in the industry, the sixties through to the eighties, starting with the classic British caper The Italian Job.

So, let’s make an apple tart on this review (that’s “make a start” for those unfamiliar with cockney rhyming slang). Now, what is it about The Italian Job that makes it such a spectacular film? Well, for starters, Michael Caine. The review could end right here because he is enough of a reason for anyone to go and watch anything EVER, but that would make this article extremely short so let’s progress a bit further.


The plot of the film is absolute gold (pun intended) as we watch a gang of thieves break into the Museo Igizio in Italy to commandeer over $4m of Chinese gold bullion in, quite possibly, the most innovative way imaginable. The film follows loveable rogue Charlie Croker (Caine) as he builds and preps a team for the heist, undeterred by the mafia threatening them. The crew break into the museum and take the gold from an armoured truck to stash in 3 Mini Coopers; not your typical getaway vehicle but they’re small enough for the gangs elaborate escape route. The route, to avoid the planned gridlock, involves the 3 Minis being driven through a shopping mall, into the sewer pipes and then driving them onto a bus that speeds along the highway heading towards the Alps.

The Minis are disposed of by being thrown from the cliff (which happens to a lot of cars in the film) and the gang celebrates their seamless getaway. However, they soon hit a bump in the road which causes the bus to swerve, landing the team in a very difficult and precarious situation. Parodied countless times in more modern media texts, just imagine a bus and a cliff and only one outcome will come to mind. “Don’t worry guys, I’ve got a great idea” says Croker as the film is left on a literal cliffhanger.

Great, right? Well, that’s not the only reason why this film has a certain charm to it. The prep work for the heist shows a strong unison within the crew and just watching it unfold piece by piece is engaging enough to make us side with the criminals and want them to win; they’re just so lovable that good and bad in the moralistic sense means nothing in this film. In the prep montage, Michael Caine delivers one particular line that has become so iconic that it was named favourite film one-liner in 2003: “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off.” Furthermore, The Italian Job itself has also been ranked 39th best British film of all time by Empire this year.

Although the film is highly praised in modern times, at the initial time of release, The Italian Job had mixed reviews; the more negative ones allegedly claimed that the plot lacked emotion and had little character development. However, audiences were evidently not interested in character development as this caper was the 14th most popular film in the UK box office during its year of release, even earning a novelisation in 1969.

In 2003, the American remake was shot in Los Angeles whilst 2012 saw a Bollywood remake of the remake called Players. Here, the same plot was used but the characters and incidents are completely different. However, both remakes still use the 3 Mini Coopers as the heist vehicles.

9-the-italian-job-1969_4354The climatic chase scene of The Italian Job is regarded as a highlight of the film, showcasing the complexity of the plan being perfectly executed whilst the catchiest, most upbeat song you’ll ever hear is heard playing in the background. The cinematography in this scene only compliments it further as we alternate between first person shots from inside the cars to sweeping long shots and bird’s-eye views of the 3 Minis driving in an almost poetic fashion. Such beautiful shots include the Minis eluding a police car on the roof of a building, driving through a shallow river and, of course, the sewer pipe scene. For a 46 year old film, it still holds up today. Sure, it may not have James Cameron CGI or Michael Bay explosions, but it has British wit that makes it an uplifting watch. Have I mentioned Michael Caine yet?

So, get your skates on go dig out this classic, even if you have to dust off an old VHS player. It’s a great film to treat yourself to, or even to make you oldies out there reminisce. While this review is as compact as the Minis themselves, we’ve summarised some of most appealing aspects of the film and established why it is regarded as a British classic. However, the real Italian Job charm comes from watching it for yourself. Everybody, “this is the self-preservation society!”

Do you love The Italian Job?

Comment with your thoughts.

Letitia Lemon


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