Movie vs. Reality: The Bank Job

By Felix Quinonez Jr.

September 6, 2012

We're never working with the Joker again.

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We’ve all heard movies described as “based on a true story,” but what does that actually mean? I’m always surprised by the fact that some people seem to equate this to watching a documentary. Sure, some movies stick close to the source material, but even the most faithful adaptations make changes to the story. Of course, there are some movies that alter so much that any similarities to the actual events seem to be accidental.

In each entry of this column I’m going to be looking at a different movie “based on a true story” or whatever phrasing is attached to it and compare it to the actual story. Hopefully, I’ll be able to separate fact from Hollywood. But I’m also going to be talking about what those changes mean and why they were made. Do the changes have some artistic merit or are they just attempts to make the story fit into a neat Hollywood package?

Sometimes we can’t help but cheer for the “bad” guys. Rooting for people committing reprehensible crimes becomes especially easy when the victims happen to be incredibly wealthy. The whole stealing from the rich thing adds a robin hood-esque element that we can’t get enough of. The Baker Street Robbery definitely fits in the category of crimes we can cheer for.

On September 11, 1971 a group of robbers broke into a branch of the Lloyds Bank in London and ransacked the safety deposit boxes. This robbery became infamous not only because of the ingenious nature of the crime or the amount of money taken but because of the sensitive nature of some of the items the robbers may or may not have taken. The crime quickly - and understandably - became a media sensation, but it just as quickly seemed to be forgotten. The event became shrouded with mystery and the fact that it seemed that the government was trying to cover it up only added to its mystique.




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A story like this practically begs to be adapted into a movie, but it actually took quite some time to make its way to the big screen. The journey from pitch to release isn’t always smooth. In this case it took decades. The film idea was actually first pitched in the late 1970s. The hopes were to raise the finances for a project with Michael Caine and Sean Connery. Needless to say that didn’t work out, but the movie did eventually come out in 2008 as The Bank Job. It was directed by Roger Donaldson and it stars Jason Statham.

I’ll admit I didn’t know that how complicated this story was before I picked it for this column. I was under the impression that this was just about a “simple” bank robbery. That’s probably why I wasn’t interested in it enough to have seen it before. I had no idea how complicated it was or how much secrecy surrounded it.

Because of the event’s mysterious nature, I won’t try to presume that I know exactly what the movie got wrong. While I feel confident enough in stating what the film got right I can’t say the same about all of the things it might have gotten wrong. Because of this I added a third section for what remains a mystery.


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