The Great Train Robbery is a terrible film, but I urge you to watch it. For a start it is only nine minutes long and can be watched for free here. But you should really watch it because of its historical significance.
Released in 1903, the film had a number of technical innovations which had barely been seen before. An example of this is the cross-cut. This is an editing technique which cuts between two scenes to show that they are happening simultaneously. This of course is industry standard now but The Great Train Robbery was one of the first films ever to use it. Moreover it used Double Exposure, something also new to film. The most striking thing about the film however is its use of a close up. The last scene features a close up of a cowboy, shooting a pistol at the audience. I can imagine how unsettling this would have been to a 1903 audience and is still a well known scene today. The film is also generally regarded as the first ever film with a complete narrative and thus making it the precursor of all narrative cinema.
|The films innovative and famous ending|
The basic plot of the film is that of a train robbery. After committing the robbery, the thieves are hunted down and shot by either locals or the sheriff, it is difficult to tell.
The acting is comical. The film is mostly overacted, possibly due to the actor’s lack of experience with film. People also fall down dead after being shot from guns pointing in completely the wrong direction and die with their arms and legs spread in a very unconvincing way. I think this can all be excused however, it was 1903 after all.