4 StarsRunaway Train is undoubtedly the best ‘film’ ever produced and released under the Cannon Films banner. Directed with remarkable precision by Russian helmer Andrei Konchalovsky, based on a screenplay that originated from the mind of Japanese master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, this is truly an action-thriller that delivers. Jon Voight and Eric Roberts earned Oscar nominations for their portrayals of two escaped convicts who find themselves in an even worse predicament.
Manny (Voight) is the most dangerous prisoner in a maximum security lock-up deep within the Alaskan tundra. Buck (Roberts) is the prison boxing champ, who is quick with his fists but slow with his wits. Things are run by the strict polices of Chief Guard Ranken (John P. Ryan), he harbors such disregard for Manny’s civil liberties that he’s had the cell doors welded shut for three years. An escape plan is hatched between Manny and Buck which leads through the icy Northeast wilderness.
The chase begins when Ranken comes out in force after the escaped cons. Not before the pair flee onto a departing freight train, only to find themselves prisoners again, this time hostage to an out of control locomotive as it hurls toward certain derailment. They soon find themselves holed up and out of options while Ranken tracks the speeding locomotive and engineers attempt to slow the machine. It’s a beautiful combination of Man vs. Machine, Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature themes. All three are given equal attention and fine detail is paid to the acting, editing and photography.
The work from the leads rightly garnered Academy Awards consideration, but the stellar work from John P. Ryan should not be overlooked. This sturdy character actor never got the big breakout leading man role that others were afforded, but he is like the B-movie Sean Connery. He appeared in a lot of bad movies, Runaway train isn’t one of them, but is never bad in them. This is a brilliantly executed picture that deserves to be recognized for its influence and rediscovered by today’s audiences.
Director: Andrei Konchalovsky
Stars: Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, Rebecca DeMornay