Two new films from writer Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch) telling the story behind the most infamous heist in British history on its 50th anniversary.
A Robber’s Tale
Britain wakes up to news of the biggest robbery in the country’s history. A train has been hijacked and robbed, 35 miles from its arrival in central London. The country is stunned: who could be behind it? How did they pull off such an audacious raid?
This is the true story of the key protagonists, led by Bruce Reynolds, and their role in the crime of the century. Told from the perspective of the perpetrators, it details how a group of mid-level criminals teamed together with a corrupt solicitor to pull off an audacious heist that baffled and frustrated the police, and thrilled the general public.
Starting from November 1962 and going through to the night of 8 August 1963 and its immediate aftermath, “A Robber’s Tale” tells the story of how the robbery was inspired, planned, rehearsed and executed. Beginning with a previous robbery at Heathrow Airport in November 1962, the film tells how Bruce Reynolds assembled and led the gang that targeted the August Bank Holiday 1963 mail train from Glasgow. It shows the characters involved, the inside information, the madness and humour of some of the preparations-gone-wrong, building to a tense blow-by-blow account of the night of the robbery itself.
It details what happened as the robbers retreated to a nearby farmhouse to divide up the money and lie low until it was safe to leave the area. It also explores the fall-out from the coshing of the driver, Jack Mills, and why, within days of the robbery, the best laid plans had to be abandoned, the safe house evacuated and all those involved forced to go on the run - some for the rest of their lives.
This is a tale of brilliance and luck, foresight and accident, detailed planning and terrible mistakes. A tale of fabulous camaraderie, from an era when there was still honour among thieves: the story of a team who came together for one night - and would be bonded together for decades after. Packed with great characters and an extraordinary set of events, this is a unique depiction of the criminal underworld of 1963 London, living cheek by jowl with the police.
“A Robber’s Tale” is a classic heist movie filled with memorable set-pieces, wit, suspense, action, daring, and a joyous sense of period.
This is the story of how one group of criminals became the most wanted men in Britain.
They got lucky. And that piece of luck would destroy their lives forever.
Bruce Reynolds is played by Luke Evans, Buster Edwards by Neil Maskell, Roy James by Martin Compston, Gordon Goody by Paul Anderson and Charlie Wilson by Jack Roth.
A Copper’s Tale
8 August 1963. Early morning, a slumbering police force awakes to news of a robbery.
But the extent of the robbery - £2.6 million (the equivalent of over £40 million today) - will only become evident over the next few days.
At Buckinghamshire CID, there is a frantic scramble down to the crime scene, where 65 policemen are searching for the lost engine of a train, unaware that any money has even been stolen! But as the scale of the robbery becomes evident, it’s clear that the local CID is not equipped to solve a crime of this magnitude. They need help.
And so, just as the criminals assembled a team of their best men, so do the police. Scotland Yard is called in. The Flying Squad. With the clock ticking, six of the best officers from across London are assembled into an elite investigation team. Six detectives with different tactics, different personalities, but with one aim in common: to catch the Great Train Robbers. And in charge of them, the enigmatic, poker-faced chief who lived with his Mum and terrified every villain across the capital: DCS Tommy Butler.
The police are on the back foot. The press hail the robbers as plucky “heroes” for tweaking the nose of the establishment and getting away with so much cash. This is turning into the first media crime - the press, stoked by each day’s fresh headlines, depict the police as bumbling fools without a clue. The media must be managed, and the police must re-focus popular opinion to their advantage.
And amidst all this painstaking detective work, done the traditional way - tip-offs, snouts, leads, shoe-leather, questioning, paperwork, inspirational hunches and occasionally some good old-fashioned chasing. Only late nights, early mornings, dogged determination and unlikely methods will crack this case. Plus, one Maurice Ray - a copper who drinks in the same local as Bruce Reynolds - the brilliant forensic scientist who is briefed to examine the farmhouse where the robbers took refuge, and not stop until he has enough evidence to nail those who did it.
“A Copper’s Tale” is a character driven period crime drama detailing one of the biggest investigations of the post-war period, conducted in the full glare of public and media scrutiny. It is told from the perspective of Tommy Butler and his elite team of brilliant, idiosyncratic investigators, all with different methods and opinions.
In a race against time, can the team identify every criminal involved in the Great Train Robbery - and put them behind bars - before they flee the country? And even if they manage to catch the criminals - what’s happened to the money itself?
DCS Tommy Butler is played by Jim Broadbent, DI Frank Williams by Robert Glenister, DS Jack Slipper by Nick Moran, DS Maurice Ray by Tim Piggott Smith, John Wheater by James Wilby and Henry Brooke by James Fox.