One Paragraph Movie Review: The Great Train Robbery

Two hundred and third film: The Great Train Robbery, a short silent movie from 1903 about, at the very least, a pretty good train robbery. This film is entertaining for its entire 12 minutes, and is significant because of its huge cinematic innovations for the time — jump cuts, camera pans, and a technique called an ‘ellipsis’ which suggests the passing of time. The two best innovations were the jump cut that transformed a real human engineer into a dummy about to be thrown off the train, and the still pretty effective final shot in which a bandit stares right down the camera’s barrel and fires a six-shooter directly at the audience. I bet there were a few shock-soiled pantaloons in the cinema audience a hundred and eighteen years ago as the result of THAT, is what I’m saying. Unexpectedly violent, pretty exciting, containing a square dance, and short enough to watch while you wait for a bus — what more could you want? Dialogue, probably. Almost three exploding postal strongboxes out of five.

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