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A hardened convict and a younger prisoner escape from a brutal prison in the middle of winter only to find themselves on an out-of-control train with a female railway worker while being pursued by the vengeful head of security. Written by
Keith Loh <email@example.com>
Everything about this film has a surreal, visceral, in-your-face quality; the anguished, violent intensity of the prison scenes, the frozen wastelands of the lands outside the prison (gee, a metaphor?), the train -- not just a lifeless machine but a huge, juggernaut-like beast -- that the title refers to, the fierce, animalistic performance by Jon Voight, who plays the character of Manny with such raw emotion and conviction that at no moment do we doubt that he is anything other than what he appears to be on screen.
It's based on a screenplay by the legendary Akira Kurosawa -- knowing this makes a lot of the elements a bit more familiar; the snow, the hopelessness, the apocalyptic atmosphere -- and it's directed by Russian Andrei Konchalovsky, who after this film directed two Hollywood embarrassments called "Homer & Eddie" and "Tango & Cash" (apparently trying to corner the market on ampersands), and most recently helmed the acclaimed Armand Assante mini-series "The Odyssey" for television. "Runaway Train" is not a perfect film, some of the minor supporting performances are really awful and some viewers may find Eric Roberts to be irritating, but the sheer kineticism, among the other stronger elements, makes it worthwhile. Often called an intellectual action picture, it's more of an existential one, i.e. man versus a indifferent/hostile universe, etc. Everything in the film has a greater, more universal meaning, and it's not rocket science to figure out what stands for what. The simplicity of its metaphors doesn't dull the impact of "Runaway Train" as a sensory experience, though, because it's still pretty potent stuff. Provided you're not completely close-minded, this is one you'll remember for a long, long time.
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