Runaway Train (1985) BluRay Review – Arrow Films
Runaway Train (1985) BluRay Review – Arrow Films
Dir. Andrey Konchalovskiy – 110 Minutes
UK Release 22nd July 2012
Starring – John Voight, Eric Roberts, Rebecca DeMornay, John P. Ryan.
Oscar “Manny” Manheim (John Voight) has been locked up in solitary confinement at a maximum security prison for three years, in fact the doors have been welded shut to keep him in. However due to a court ruling the prison governor Warden Ranken (John P. Ryan) has been told to release Manny back into the prison general population.
Manny is a hero to the prison inmates and returns to an over-exuberant population having a small party/riot in his honour. The warden however is not pleased at being forced to return what he calls “Not a human being , he ‘s an animal” back into the prison. So during a prison boxing tournament a fellow inmate attacks Manny with a knife but only manages to pierce his hand , the attacker then tells Manny this was at the order of the Warden who would rather see Manny dead that back on the wings.
Manny now has an easy decision to make , either stay locked up and end up dead from another attack or try to escape the prison into the -30 temperatures and chance his hand out there!
Buck McGeehy (Eric Roberts) is a low intelligence, loud mouthed convicted rapist and also Manny’s number one fan. But on a more crucial level he is in charge of the prison’s laundry trolley , something in which Manny is very interested.
Buck smuggles Manny into the trolley and they make their escape through a sewage pipe and into the frozen wastelands outside. After a short journey they reach a train terminal where they pick an old freight train on which to hitch a ride to freedom. Unfortunately as the train leaves the station the guard on-board suffers a fatal heart attack and falls from the moving train.
Blissfully unaware in a rear carriage Manny and Buck settle back for a quiet journey , but soon find out they are in for the fight of their lives!
Before today I had never seen Runaway Train, I remember it back in around 1986 but to be honest I really had very little knowledge of it. And after my viewing I can only apologise to the great god of cinema , as Runaway Train is a wonderful film.
The story basically starts with Manny’s escape , then once they board the train the story takes a turn and three story start to unveil . Firstly we have the escaped convicts on the train , who after a brief moment of ignorance realise that the train is a runaway. And we watch as they struggle to decide on what course of action to take.
Secondly the managers at the train company headquarters who are battling to keep the train on track and get all the other vehicles out of the way as the train increases in speed and becomes a deadly weapon. And in particular Frank Barstow (Kyle T. Heffner) who is the manager that has brought in a new computerised system in at a huge coast and this is his time to prove it’s worth.
And finally Warden Ranken’s story as he attempts to catch his most notorious inmate and bring him to his own justice which he wants to be by his hand alone!
The three stories interlock perfectly and run concurrently, giving the viewer the feeling of almost watching this as a documentary.
The main story throughout however is one of friendship born through adversity, Manny and Buck are indeed an odd couple . Manny is a one-man wrecking machine , he hates (almost) everyone and everything and is intent on escaping at all costs. Buck however is a slightly slow, easy influenced younger imate. He wants to help Manny as he is his hero and sees him almost as a Robin Hood figure but does come to realise that he is in fact just another man and no hero.
The setting of Alaska is perfect and adds the feeling of total isolation to the story being told. The cinematography (Alan Hume) is just beautiful, it is hard to think of a film that just looks this good. The exterior shots are fabulous and the scenes in the train with Alaska whistling past in the background just look so real and yet were all done through projections. I ask anyone to find a fault with this, I couldn’t!
When it comes to the two main actors then firstly Eric Roberts. Wow I don’t think I have ever seen Eric Roberts in a role like this, he plays a man convicted of statutory rape and the prison boxing champion yet he seems so immature and vulnerable. What Buck needs is a father figure and someone to look up to , and Manny comes along to fill that void.
John Voight is just sublime as Manny, he is almost as good as it gets. Voight shows compassion to Buck in his own way, he is deeply intellectual and in one superb scene he explains to Buck just how limited his life choices now are. His is not your typical career criminal and that is what makes him so much more dangerous.
Both Eric Roberts and John Voight were nominated for Academy Awards and both were unsuccessful but this alone goes to show that this is far from the adventure picture the original poster seems to point at. This is a beautiful film about friendship through adversity and a complete character driven thriller.
On a final note the BluRay transfer from Arrow Films is unbelievable. The quality on the exterior shots is crisp , sharp and oh so vivid. Another remarkable release that is as we have come to expect full of wonderful extras (see below).
High Definition transfer of the film prepared by MGM for the Cannes Film Festival premiere.
High Definition Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the film.
Optional English SDH Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Running on Empty – An Interview with director Andrei Konchalovsky
From Thespian to Fugitive – Star Jon Voight shares his memories of his Academy Award-nominated role.
Sweet and Savage: Eric Roberts recalls his Academy Award-nominated performance
The Calm Before the Chaos – Co-star Kyle T. Heffner remembers Runaway Train
Trailer with commentary by Rod Lurie
Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Brooke, a new interview with Runaway Trains Production Designer Stephen Marsh conducted by Calum Waddell and the original Life Magazine article that inspired the film, illustrated with rare behind-the-scenes production images.
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