2018 Critiques: Movie Critique – The Thomas Crown Affair

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: A movie about heist, seduction and eventual capture of the bad guy, albeit with finesse and form - 102 minutes of pure entertainment.

The Thomas Crown Affair is a 1968 American heist film starring Steve McQueen as Thomas Crown and Faye Dunaway as Vicki Anderson. It was awarded the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the Michel Legrand's song "Windmills of Your Mind".

A millionaire businessman-sportsman Thomas Crown brilliantly orchestrates a perfect crime of stealing over two millions dollars from a Boston bank. He doesn’t need it, but he does it for the heck of it as a game. Vicki Anderson, an insurance investigator, is given this heist to investigate. She zeroes in on Thomas Crown as the mastermind behind the heist, but she has to prove it as well. Thus begins the cat and mouse chase between Crown and Vicki in the manner of the heist investigation which takes on a more romantic turn for them. 

I had watched the 1999 remake of this film starring Pierce Brosnan as Thomas Crown and Rene Russo as the insurance investigator named Catherine Banning as opposed to Vicki Anderson in this original version. I was impressed by the 1999 remake although I had originally watched it for the sake of Pierce Brosnan, him being portrayed as James Bond and all. Very few remake movies are successful as the original, and The Thomas Crown Affair falls in such category - both versions were successful.

Incidentally for this 1968 version Sean Connery was approached for the lead role and he had turned down. Wouldn’t it have been a wonderful scoop if Sean Connery had played this role for 1968 - two actors who had played James Bond would also have played as Thomas Crown. Oh well, that is now only for our imagination now.

This role for Steve McQueen is totally different from what he was usually type casted into - blue-collar man of action. Fay Dunaway in her autobiography "Looking for Gatsby: My Life", she had mentioned that this was the first time she was playing opposite someone she called "A great big old movie star". Needless to say both artistes enjoyed working in this movie. Incidentally Faye doesn’t come into picture until well after 40 minutes into the movie.

I remember watching Faye Dunaway in the 1993 TV movie It's All in the Game under the Columbo umbrella (Check my review of the very first episode of Columbo here). She was charming in that as much the same as she was in this. A blonde with brains - unique combination that became a successful asset for Faye.

Detective Eddie Malone portrayed by Paul Burke reminded me of so much of Benjamin Bratt - famous for Detective Ray Curtis on Law & Order TV Series. However as the movie was progressing it struck me that I had seen him in another of Columbo's episode - the 1990 episode Uneasy Lies the Crown. His role as the father of the girl suspected of murdering her lover stood out in my mind. He is also seen in one episode of Murder, She Wrote TV series  - the 1985 episode Murder in the Afternoon.

Seems to be quite a few famed actors have been part of these two TV series - Murder, She Wrote (Check my review of all the books written based on the TV Show here) and Columbo.

The photography in the movie is also unusual for a regular Hollywood movie. There are several scenes where the director uses a split-screen mode showing simultaneously  multiple scenes. This was a pretty new technology for the movie, and clearly can be seen polished here.

The 1999 remake of the film with the same name has quite a few differences from this film amongst the generic story line - the film is set in New York as opposed to Boston; Robbery is of a priceless painting instead of a bank robbery; the insurance investigator is named Catherine Banning as opposed to Vicki Anderson.

Screenplay for this film was by Alan R. Trustman, a practicing lawyer in Boston turned screenplay writer. He also wrote screenplays for a few more movies after this was deemed a success - the 1968 American film Bullitt again starring Steve McQueen and the 1970 American film They Call Me Mister Tibbs! Starring Sidney Poitier. 

Steve McQueen did his own stunts for this film which included playing the polo game and drive a dune buggy along the Massachusetts coastline.

Fay Dunaway's costumes are very beautiful and sexy to suit the seductress that she plays yet very formal to suit to the insurance investigator she is also. All through the movie her attire did not go past her mid-thigh except for one or two scenes where she is seen in slacks, such as one of the scene here below.

She does carry all of the costumes really well. Perhaps being blonde, the costume designed might have wanted her to be portrayed as a sexy, but the script warranted for a bright mind which she delivered it despite the costumes.

The movie leads to the famous five-minute final chess scene filmed without any dialogue - two stars playing a seductive and sensual game of chess . And of course to one of the longest kisses in film history. It is said that this scene took three days for director Norman Jewison including one full day just to shoot the kiss. Per Wiki, the game depicted is based on a game played in Vienna in 1898 between Gustav Zeissl and Walter von Walthoffen.

Although now this movie is considered as a cult movie in the heist genre, it definitely had received mixed reviews when it was released the first time around. Whatever the reviewers might have said back then, I had thoroughly enjoyed watching this film. Looking forward to watch it’s remake also pretty soon. 

Finally the video of the song that won the academy award, that plays during the opening credits:

Note: I have included a few titbits by  Ben Mankiewicz - the anchor who gave the intro to the movie on Turner Classics Movies channel.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) From Wiki: The car drove by Dunaway, referred to as "one of those red Italian things," is the first of only ten Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spyders built. Today, this model is one of the most valuable Ferrari road cars of all time. McQueen liked the car very much, and eventually managed to acquire one for himself.

2) From Wiki: Crown's Rolls Royce carried Massachusetts vanity license tag "TC 100" for the film.

3) Check out the line of telephone booths - something which has become extinct now, thanks to the smart phones. 

4) Also check out the video camera Fay uses here to record McQueen's polo play. We have certainly come a long way from bulky video cameras to cameras on our phones to miniature cameras in buttons.


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