I wonder what a movie titled Runaway Train could be about? Is it about aging and how the life we thought we’re going to have is uncontrollably heading towards certain oblivion? Perhaps it follows our inner struggle to control our ego and emotions, trying to connect with those around us? Of course, when I tell you this is a movie about two escaped convicts on a runaway train, you’ll say I fucking knew it. However, this isn’t just a movie about that. And if you dig just a little deeper beneath its suspenseful surface, you’ll find many of the elements we talked about. It reminded me of another train-themed movie, Midnight Express. The psychological elements are toned down in favor of thrills and action, but they are still there.
Starting as your run-of-the-mill prison movie, I wish they’ve only somehow hidden what’s about to follow. You simply know that these guys are going to escape from prison and “luckily” end up on a train. And that marks only the beginning of their journey. All this makes Runaway Train also an adventure movie. The cinematography is stellar and feels personal and immersive. Director of photography Alan Hume and his camera crew put their cameras in odd and different positions to achieve this effect. I have to say that this is probably the best movie Cannon Group ever produced.
Welcome to Stonehaven Maximum Security Prison in Alaska. It’s one of the worst prisons in the country with a sadistic warden and dangerous prisoners. One of them is Manny, a bank robber looking to escape this hell on Earth. However, while his plan might work, he doesn’t know that this is just the start of his ordeal.
One of the things Runaway Train does exceedingly well is that places you right smack dab in the middle of the action. You will feel all the might and fury of these metal beasts barreling down the tracks. And also the cold. It feels like these men are escaping from a gulag and they’re effectively are. Moreover, the personal nature of conflict proves that connection. This brings us to the complexity of this thrilling masterpiece. Simultaneously, we will be following three aspects of the same story with the titular train the focus of them all. Voight and Roberts gave captivating performances and really looked like two prisoners on the run.
I also just have to talk about the spectacular stunts in this movie. They feel incredibly raw and dangerous, something you will rarely see in newer, polished movies. The pacing is relentless and tension only increases as the stakes become higher and higher. Finally, if you’re looking for similar movies, check out Taking of Pelham 123, Money Train, and Unstoppable. Additionally, you might wanna check out Snowpiercer set in the not too distant future and starring Chris Evans. I know I said I’m done, but I can’t leave without mentioning the stunning South Korean zombie epic Train to Busan.
Director: Andrey Konchalovskiy
Writers: Djordje Milicevic, Paul Zindel, Edward Bunker
Cast: Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, Rebecca De Mornay, John P. Ryan, T.K. Carter, Kyle T. Heffner, Kenneth McMillan
Fun Facts: Akira Kurosawa teamed with Joseph Levine to produce this in 1965 while intending for Lee Marvin and Henry Fonda to star in it.