This utterly gripping prison-break drama from 1960 is one of Becker’s finest movies and is based on true events about a daring escape plan in the Parisian La Santé Prison in 1947, though it has been updated for the movie. Prison break dramas has always been a popular genre among crime dramas though what is slightly unusual in LE TROU (THE HOLE) is the fact that one of the main characters was not a professional actor but was involved in 1947 escape attempt.

La Santé Prison is as secure as can be and it’s here that four cellmates – all condemned to a long spell in jai – plan to escape rather than spend time behind bars. Well, you can’t exactly blame them. The four men are Geo Cassine (Michel Constantin), Manu Borelli (Philippe Leroy), Vosselin aka ‘Monseigneur’ (Raymond Meunier) and Roland Darbant (Jean Keraudy). Latter is the real life escape-specialist in case you are interested, though as the story unfolds it becomes only to clear that no one is as skilled with breaking locks, smashing through concrete and digging holes as Roland is! Just imagine a stockier and older version of notorious 18th century thief and gaol-breaker Jack Sheppard and you’ll get the idea! Precisely why the four men have been condemned to lengthy prison sentences is never quite revealed in detail, however, what seems obvious that between the four men there is not only a plan that bonds them but also loyalty and friendship. In fact the men seem almost too polite to be hardened criminals or so it would seem.
Just as they draw up more precise plans with regards to their daring getaway another prisoner is put into their cell. The young man is Claude Gaspard (Marc Michel) who claims that he was wrongfully convicted of attempted first-degree murder, in this case his wife. Innocent or guilty, the four others are understandably none to pleased about the unexpected arrival of a fifth cellmate, after all it means they need to reveal their plan to him and as yet they don’t know whether they can actually trust Claude….

While it seems that they have no other option that to trust him, Claude is in fact surprisingly eager to join the others in their daring preparations to escape through the maze of tunnels below the massive prison building – a seemingly impossible undertaking but nothing seems impossible if you have someone like Roland to count on! Although initially slower than slow, the men push forward and with each trip direction underground the men time every step and practise every move. But then another unexpected twist of fate jeopardises their final plan: Claude is summoned to meet the prison inspector who reveals to him that his wife recanted her original testimony – meaning that he is due to be released sooner than later. And now he’s in a pickle because knowing that he’ll be out soon, why risk a prison escape which might go wrong and which might put him back into the slammer again, only for longer than before… As the hour of the escape nears Geo, Manu, Vosselin and Roland are certain that nothing can go wrong but of course, they don’t know about Claude’s change of circumstance…

Utterly gripping till the end, LE TROU is simply brilliant despite it being on the stark and minimal side. The performances are captivating and Jean Keraudy displayed a natural talent for acting. Upon its release the film was nominated for a BAFTA as well as the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.