‘The Italian Job’ As A Metaphor For Brexit


It’s not often Michel Caine is interrupted by a peacock, but he was last night. I was in Holland Park, London’s fanciest green area, picnicking with friends. The park has peacocks and open-air opera and people playing chess on a giant board like they did in ‘The Prisoner’, and David Beckham lives next door.

We were there for a screening of the original ‘The Italian Job’ with a live orchestra performing Quincy Jones’ rollicking score. I was expecting the film to have dated in certain ways (it has but only a little, and amusingly) but what we all agreed upon was that it has also turned into a grim metaphor for Brexit.

The script, by Troy Kennedy Martin, who wrote the politically charged ‘Edge of Darkness’, is a gem. Director Peter Collinson (who tragically died of lung cancer at 44) gets the best from every line and allows clearly ad-libbed bits of business from the familiar faces that fill out the cast, especially from Irene Handl, Benny Hill and John Clive. Let’s reconsider the film with one eye on the events of the past year.

Charlie Croker (Caine) has been in prison, along with royalty-fan Mr Bridger (Noel Coward) but there’s a life of wealth and freedom beckoning if they can just con the EU out of money. Dodgy old Italy has accepted a huge bribe from China for their manufacturers (Fiat), but if Charlie and his gang of cheeky chappies, comprising posho drivers, dim burglars and of course the delightful Camp Freddy, (Cameron, Farage, Johnson) can make off with the cash, English pride will be restored. Europe, in the form of the mafia, offends Britain.

The British strike back during an England V Italy football match in Turin, where a drunken, xenophobic man dressed in union jacks disrupts the smooth running of the city (Farage). The gold bullion is hijacked into red, white and blue minis (the Brexit deal), which causes Noel Coward (Cameron) to be applauded by his fellow inmates back at home. A song describes Britain as the ‘Self Preservation Society’. England celebrates too early, despite the fact that they have broken many laws in Europe and have bested the EU mafia. The National Anthem is played.

But having won the prize they immediately become careless and nearly lose the getaway coach over a precipice. The prized Euro-gold may now sport a British flag on top, but it slides further away from Caine when he tries to seize it. The lads, representing the country, are stranded by their own ineptitude at the wrong end of the carriage while the EU money disappears. Caine, as Britannia, says he has a great idea but clearly has nothing of a kind. There can be only one outcome; the whole lot will plunge into a ravine.

I am not the first person to notice the similarities in the film. Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn out that way.

10 comments on “‘The Italian Job’ As A Metaphor For Brexit”

  1. Linda Evans says:

    Is Michael Caine David Cameron, shouting at the nation “you were only meant to blow the bloody doors off!”?

  2. SimonB says:

    One of my top five films that. Going to have to rewatch it with this new perspective now though.

  3. Barry Wilson says:

    Talk about Remoaners! I love the Italian job and I love that we are coming out the EU. Should have done it it years ago. It’s the self preservation society!

  4. Ken Mann says:

    I think the main thing to have dated is the use of pick-axe handles to club people unconscious during the heist. These now sit a little oddly with the “light hearted caper” atmosphere.

    I would like to see a sequel in which a wheel-chair bound Charlie Croker masterminds a robbery in the UK from an Italian prison with the strap line “Larceny’s coming home”

  5. Peter Tromans says:

    Yikes, put my cynical comment on UK and Brexit under the previous topic of nightlife and boozing. Old age and incompetence!

    Going back to the film, it’s certainly on my list of all time favourites. It is unashamedly of its time, and none the worse for it, but that is not the same as dated. There’s a brilliant ‘ballet scene’ of the Minis that was cut from the final version, quite reasonably as it contributed nothing to the story and probably broke the continuity. However, it’s worth seeking out. I think it’s on one of the special edition DVDs.

  6. Brooke says:

    I think I’ll use “The Italian Job” as pre-work next time I have to facilitate an executive “strategy” program—it’s all about execution. Thanks.

  7. admin says:

    Barry, ‘The Italian Job’ only opened well in the UK. It bombed in Europe and America, thus completing the analogy.

  8. Ian Luck says:

    All the fantastic stunt driving in the movie was choreographed and performed by the very French Remy Julienne and his team. Just saying.

  9. Peter Tromans says:

    Ian, that extends the metaphor to the blue passports.

  10. Colin says:

    My favourite scene was round Irene Handls house. Maybe this is what the negotiations were like!
    On another subject has anyone on here seen the recent series on AMC The Terror? Thought it was excellent, would be interested if anyone else had seen it and their views. Great column today Chris!

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