This is the first Jacques Becker film I have seen (if I don't count tiny acting roles in movies like Grand Illusion). As far as I can tell, Le Trou is a bit different from his other movies, so I can't make a useful judgement on him as a director based solely on this one. Becker was an assistant to Jean Renoir in the 30s, and you can't get a better education than that.
Le Trou ("The Hole") is based on the true story of an attempted prison escape. Becker uses mostly non-actors ... one of them was a participant in the actual events, as he tells us at the very beginning of the film ("Hello. My friend Jacques Becker recreated a true story in all its detail. My story."). Apparently the detail is very accurate ... Becker built a copy of the prison, helped by some of the escapees. Becker chose his actors well ... they give no sign of being amateurs (and, given the long acting resume of many of them, perhaps there weren't as many non-actors as is rumored).
Despite the longish (132 minutes) running time, Le Trou is compact. The escape attempt is shown in a step-by-step fashion over the course of a few days, which adds to the tension. Much as the prisoners are focused on their attempt, Becker remains focused throughout on the same thing. There is little about prison life, and we learn next to nothing about the prisoners. This isn't a movie about the prison system in France, or about the social milieu that leads men to commit crimes. Instead, the movie starts and ends with the escape attempt itself. These are men doing a job. The problem comes with the introduction of an outsider to their cell just as they are to begin digging. Trust is a key factor among the five. But mostly, Becker avoids anything he might find extraneous. The audience has nothing to hold onto except the escape. #885 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.