Runaway Train

Jon Voight stares down man, nature, and self.Photo: Canon Group
Desert IslandWhy I Saw It: Skipped it in the theater, and when it came on cable, watched it just to see what the big deal and stop people entreating me to see it.
What I Thought: Yeah… I’m one of those people now. I’ve topped 3,200 titles, and this one still ranks in the Top 50, easily. Quite likely Top 15.

Runaway Train. Dir. Andrei Konchalovsky. Perf. star Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, star Rebecca DeMornay, Kenneth MacMillan, T.K. Carter. The Cannon Group, 1985.

A hardened convict and a young colt rookie break out of an Alaskan prison and stow away on a train destined for real trouble.

I’ve mentioned this movie until I’m sure people are sick of hearing me talk about it.

It doesn’t sound like much at first blush: two escaped cons board a train that goes runaway. Woo.

And then you see it. And it’s unforgettable.

I carried on about it over in my recent Snowpiercer review. And here’s part of my carrying on, coming over from Getaway  last year:

… AND while we’re on the subject of dizzying speed, commandeering of indestructible vehicles, eluding of dogged authorities, and Jon Voight…

You really owe it to yourself to see Runaway Train. (And no, Unstoppable doesn’t cut it. Not even close. Not by a longshot.)

Jon Voight was nominated for a leading Oscar, Eric Roberts for supporting, and Editing took a nod as well ~ and all most deservedly so. Though from 1985 and therefore bereft of Getaway’s dazzling gadgetry, it won’t feel in the least date. Its themes, its environment, its actions are just as relevant now as they were then. It also contains a Qualifying Role for Rebecca DeMornay. (Surprise! I know, right?)

How serious am I? Enough that I’d say you should subscribe to Blockbuster.com for a month and rent it (thanks a lot, Netflix). Don’t do the trial. Give them the month and reward them for carrying it even though it’s older (heck, I think I might do that). In fact, as it happens the Blu-Ray just released this past July 30th, so it may be available everywhere sooner than later. (I cannot WAIT to see it in HD, holy cow.) (Update: It’s on Blu-Ray, you can get it on Amazon.)

You will love it, I can virtually guarantee it. Every single person who’s taken me up on this entreaty over the years has initially balked at the apparently boring premise (two escaped convicts stow away on a locomotive that turns runaway), and then thanked me profusely and wide-eyed for having pressed the point.

I’ve seen 2800+ titles as of this writing (3,000 as of Summer 2014), and Runaway Train remains one of the best, certainly Top 50, maybe Top 15. It’s a superthriller. Suspenseful, heart-pounding, gritty, unbelievably compelling, stunningly filmed, and packing an emotional punch for the ages. Runaway Train carries thoughts that will wind their way into your soul and live there forever (in a good way, perhaps contrary to appearances).

This one’s unmissable. If you get the chance to see it, grab it. It’s a remarkable story remarkably told, bringing the stunt work that inspired Cliffhanger and True Lies, and it speaking a line that echoes to this day: “You do what you have to do, and I’ll do what I have to do. Whatever happens happens.” Lifetime Pass for Jon Voight. Ed would love to have had this guy on the river with him.

Do NOT watch the theatrical trailer; it’s so cheesy as to completely disrespect the film (and probably why I had no interest in it to begin with). But a like-minded fan mixed this one up a few years back, and it’s actually pretty good!

Warning: Language Not Safe For Work

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