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Runaway Train

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    Ian Jane
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  • Runaway Train



    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: October 18th, 2016.
    Director: Andrei Konchalovsky
    Cast: Jon Voight, Rebecca De Mornay, Eric Roberts, Kyle T. Heffner, John P. Ryan, T.K. Carter
    Year: 1985
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Directed by Andrei Konchalovsky and based on an original story by none other than Akira Kurosawa, Cannon Films' 1985 picture Runaway Train remains a ruthlessly efficient and insanely tense film more than thirty years after its big screen debut.

    Oscar "Manny" Manheim (Jon Voight) is doing time in Stonehaven Prison, a maximum security joint in the wilds of Alaska. He's a tough guy. You don't want to mess with him. In fact, he's such a tough guy that the warden quite literally had him welded into his cell. When he connects with fellow inmate Buck McGeehy (Eric Roberts) they pair makes an escape out through the sewers of the facility. Once they're outside, the hop a train and figure they can just bide their time until they are once again free men - but of course, if it were that easy this would be a pretty dull film. A few miles down the track, the train's engineer has a heart attack. With no one at the controls, our two escaped convicts and a railway employee named Sara (Rebecca De Mornay) have no choice but to make their way to the engine to try and stop the thing. Sara isn't particularly excited to be helping these guys but again, you don't want to mess with Manny. She doesn't have much of a choice.

    Of course, their escape does not go unnoticed. Once Warden Ranken (John P. Ryan) is wise to their flight, all bets are off. He coerces two men to help him - Frank Barstow (Kyle T. Heffner) and Dave Prince (T.K. Carter) - to help him catch the convicts. But that won't be easy either. Ranken has a serious grudge against Manny and will do whatever he needs to do in order to bring him down. If that means putting him down once and for all, so be it. He's just looking for an excuse.

    Rewritten by a real life former convict named Edward Bunker (the same Edward Bunker that played Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs), Kurosawa originally intended to direct the film himself. When that didn't happen the script wound up with Cannon Films They brought on Bunker as well as writer Paul Zindel to Americanize it, cast it perfectly, put it in the hands of talented director Andrei Konchalovsky and the rest? Well, it's action movie history. One of those rare films that fires on all cylinders while still managing to do everything right, Runaway Train is nothing if not intense. The movie barrels down the tracks like the vehicle it's named after and once the action starts, it does not let up. There are a few similarly great 'train' movies like - Emperor Of The North and The Train being great examples (and both of which are available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time... someone over there has great taste in train movies!) - but as excellent as they might be (and they really are excellent), this one wins for 'edge of your seat suspense.' No easy feat, mind you, but see it for yourself and tell me I'm wrong.

    Not all of the film's success stems from a great story and the impressive direction. The locations are perfect - you really get a feeling for just how damn cold it must be out there - and the cinematography is top notch. There are some really impressive camera angles used throughout the movie to capture the action in just the right way.

    And then there are the performances. Rebecca De Mornay, John P. Ryan, Kyle T. Heffner and T.K. Carter are all great, but as much fun as they are to watch, it's Roberts and Voight who own this movie. Roberts' character is annoying. He's supposed to be annoying and he succeeds and convincing us that yes, he's an irritating guy to spend a lot of time with. However, there's something likeable about him. He's the nicer side of the coin. Roberts plays the part perfectly and was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his work in this movie. On the flip side of that aforementioned coin, however, is John Voight. It's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job of playing the hardened criminal type than Voight does in this picture. Manny is an absolute beast, a man so fond of profanity that you start to go numb from all the expletives that fly out of his mouth and a man very much prone to violence. He's intense, quite possibly insane, and eminently watchable in this film. He too was nominated for an Oscar and actually won a Golden Globe for this performance. Both men would go on to make some questionable choices in roles in the future, but here, they're perfect. Also be on the lookout for early, albeit small, roles for Tiny Lister and Danny Trejo!

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Runaway Train arrives on Blu-ray from Twilight Time framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer. In short, the picture quality here is great. There's way more detail than was ever noticeable on the old DVD and the colors look more lifelike and accurate. The image is clean, free of any major damage to the source, while the filmic grain structure remains intact and looks nice and natural. Skin tones are good, black levels are nice and solid and there's lots of texture and depth here to appreciate. At the same time, the image appears free of noise reduction, compression artifacts or edge enhancement. No complaints here!

    Audio chores are handled by an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Again, we get a nice upgrade from the old DVD release. Dialogue is clean, clear and easily discernable throughout the movie while the score sounds nice and punchy. There's a lot of power behind some of the sound effects, especially once that train starts barreling down the tracks, but at the same time the levels stay properly balanced and the track remains free of any audible hiss or distortion.

    The main extra on the disc is a really enjoyable commentary with actor Eric Roberts moderated by film historians David Del Valle and C. Courtney Joyner. It's a pretty engaging talk that covers how Roberts came to be cast in the picture, his thoughts on working with Andrei Konchalovsky, what it was like acting alongside some of the co-stars who appear with him in the picture, the stunt work, the locations and spending so much time on a train for this movie. Lots of great information here, it's interesting stuff and there's never a dull moment.

    The disc also includes Trevor Jones' isolated score as a separate DTS-HD 2.0 track, the film's original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection. Inside the clear Blu-ray case is an insert booklet containing liner notes from essayist Julie Kirgo that discuss the origins of the project, Kurosawa's original story and the intensity of the performances in the film.

    The Final Word:

    More extras are always welcome, but otherwise Twilight Time's Blu-ray release of Runaway Train is a good one. The movie looks and sounds excellent and the commentary is absolutely worth taking the time to listen to. As to the film itself, it remains a ridiculously tense and entertaining thriller with loads of atmosphere and some unforgettable characters and set pieces.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!



















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