There is certainly no shortage of handsome Heist Movies in cinematic history, although I struggle to remember any more romantic than The Thomas Crown Affair of 1968.
Steve McQueen leads the games in this mirror of deception and conspiracy, hiring several criminals to rob a Boston bank.
Thomas Crown doesn’t need the money, as he is already a multimillionaire businessman, but he can’t resist the thrill of risk by challenging the system to catch him.
The police have no clues, but fortunately, private detective Vicki Anderson comes to the rescue.
Although she is a young girl, the insurance company relies on her cunning and ability to frame the culprits and recover the loot by any means necessary.
Indeed, she is the one who comes up with the idea of tracking down where they may have put the more than two million dollars they stole, tracing it to an anonymous account in a Swiss bank.
From this account, monthly payments go out to the various robbers each month, paid in installments almost as if they had a salary.
By successfully framing one of them and getting him to talk, Anderson realizes that the unsuspected Crown is indeed at the head of the gang.
However, she has no evidence to catch him, and neither do the robbers know who hired them.
So the girl approaches and seduces the reclusive millionaire, shortly becoming his mistress and waiting for the right moment that he will reveal something to set him up for good.
However, this seduction also works the other way because she also falls in love with Crown and begs him to strike a deal with the police to save himself.
To her surprise, not only does the man not intend to give up, he plans another spectacular robbery before fleeing abroad.
The inimitable artistry of classic cinema
Norman Jewison is a director with a long and varied filmography, including such masterpieces as the musical Jesus Christ Superstar and the stunning sports/dystopian Rollerball.
Of the latter, we remember a terrible remake by John McTiernan, really a forgettable movie, while the same director, on the other hand, effectively directed a new version of 1968’s The Thomas Crown Affair with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo.
Whatever kind of story he tells, Jewison is always very detail-oriented, taking the time to create realistic and detailed settings.
Equally important are his collaborators, such as Hal Ashby, a legendary Hollywood editor, who, with numerous multiple camera shots, gives dynamism and involvement to the same scenes from different angles.
Instead, this editing becomes more relaxed with extended sequential shot plans in Thomas Crown’s personal moments, when, for example, he flies a glider to reach his lover or drives a dune buggy in a sweet spot with Detective Anderson.
The situation often becomes scorching hot such as the sexy and entertaining chess game where the beautiful girl defeats the millionaire by distracting him with her morbid seduction.
In addition to the excellent crime plot, Alan R. Trustman‘s screenplay elegantly blends the sexuality and romance of these two strange characters who are clearly suited to being together.
Although in love, the thief and the detective are still against each other, and neither wants to lose at this game, even if it means risking everything.
This strange relationship and the outstanding performance of Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway give it that extra boost over other heist movies, leading to international critical praise and a big box office hit.
As few other directors can do, Jewison perfectly blends style and substance in a crime movie that still remains tense and exciting to the last second.
Man and woman in the eternal struggle
Among the many roles making Steve McQueen a cinematic myth, Thomas Crown’s role is undoubtedly the most charismatic and sophisticated.
While in other movies, the actor also exhibited good physical ability during action scenes, here, the character is a man who likes to act behind the scenes with patience and cunning.
He is a rich and handsome elite man with impeccable clothing style and fancy stuff, yet he is also an adventure lover, always looking for new excitement and challenges.
Being very independent and free, he only apparently conforms to social conventions; therefore, he immediately welcomes the dare that young Faye Dunaway gives him.
The actress was coming off her stunning performance as Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde just the year before, an Arthur Penn masterpiece chronicling the lore of a pair of criminals guilty of numerous robberies and murders during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In this case, she is dazzlingly beautiful, with a glamorous, graceful sophisticated look and magnificent clothes designed by renowned costume designer Theadora Van Runkle.
Like the protagonist, Vicki Anderson’s figure is highly independent, careless of her colleagues’ opinions and judgments, and has a remarkable capacity for analysis and insight.
Given her great sensuality and outward delicacy, many underestimate this beautiful girl at first glances, such as the robbery driver played by the funny Jack Weston, who gets screwed over by his meddling wife.
As mentioned, the story’s great strength lies in the ambiguity and challenge between the thief and the detective since both try to keep control of the situation and defeat the other in cunning.