“Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.”
- Jean-Luc Godard
Along comes a film, sometimes, that is wrapped-wrapped within the gloss of a genre that it takes multiple visits for the viewer to root out the profundity and the sheer wisdom that the film was encasing.
Runaway Train could be best described as a film that Tony Scott would make after taking a year-long break and moving to the Himalayas to reflect on life, ultimately attaining enlightenment!
This is a film, part steroids and part acumen of a sage.
Script and Screenplay of Runaway Train
The script of this thriller was written by Kurosawa, Oguni Hideo, and Kikushima Ryuzo but never saw the light of the day as a feature film.
The screenplay is tense and guarantees biting your nails off at several junctures. What makes the film play out so well, along with the tight screenplay, is the setting. The film has practically been shot in the icy region of Alaska, and this might seem like an exaggeration but you, as a viewer will feel a certain chill down the spine owing to its frosty surroundings. This film is a tour-de-France when it comes to writing characters. In spite of the lead characters not having a proper arc, we do not know the beginning-middle-end of the characters but can invest in them entirely due to the vivid humane motives each of them has been provided, albeit grey. This makes the film tense and really makes you shiver in eagerness when a character climbs the top of the train, knowing that he might get mauled beneath the mammoth vehicle anytime; just one false step is all it takes.
Performances and Direction
via Arrow Films
The acting in Runaway Train is somewhat of a palette of sorts. The lead character, named Manny, has been played by Jon Voight ( father of Angelina Jolie ) with delicious wickedness, which becomes very personal as the layers wear off. In complete contrast with Voight’s acting style, Buck has been played by Eric Roberts. I somehow found Robert’s acting to be very irritating, which I later discovered is just how he speaks!
These two characters play two convicts who have successfully escaped prison and get atop a train only to realize that the vehicle is running sans a driver and might just crash, turn, burn. In addition to that, our men are constantly being pursued by a cop, played brilliantly by John P. Ryan. This should have essentially been a cat and mouse hunt affair, but what elevates it notches higher is the tight bond that you share with the characters. Although very casual, the dialogues do let us see through the personalities of Manny and Buck. Manny’s character somehow represents the journey of a tyrant — a man having firm motives, tramping over the objectives and life choices of people around him, only to realize he is another cog in the wheel of this world. There is a scene, a monologue, in particular, you would know when it comes. That’s some Bravo acting for you.
The director, Andrei Konchalovsky, needs to be given credit to understand the conflict, the game the characters are playing to delay their mortality. However, what Konchalovsky does very well is understand the real conflict of this straight-up action film.
As we gear for the finale of Runaway Train, something unexpected happens, something that comes at you with a jolt. I won’t reveal, but it has a certain Shakespearean touch. An image gets embedded in the head, masterfully captured, and will continue to do so. And for me, the film has succeeded when the image speaks more than the dialogue itself and continues to linger on and on.
So, my point is why is this film so sinfully underrated?