Armed men hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day's work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime.
A runaway train carrying a cargo of toxic chemicals puts an engineer and his conductor in a race against time. They're chasing the runaway train in a separate locomotive and need to bring it under control before it derails on a curve and causes a toxic spill that will decimate a town. Written by
Although the runaway train is stated to be a half mile long, the visual length of the train changes throughout the film. At some points it appears to be not much longer than 100 meters (this is especially noticeable just after it misses Frank and Will's train). See more »
as long as you aren't looking for things like story and character, it's fun, I guess
Tony Scott isn't known for subtlety. So maybe then he is one of the only people conceivable right now in Hollywood to make a big-loud- somewhat-stupid runaway train movie. This isn't 1985 where one could get a director with a slightly-less "Hollywood" sensibility like Andrei Konchovalesky to make his Runaway Train (albeit a screenplay by Kurosawa doesn't hurt). It's a movie where Scott favors kinetic-speed of shots and cuts over substance. The average shot-speed doesn't last longer than maybe two seconds, though there may be some leeway to a longer- length shot depending on how long Scott is doing another in his (I'm not sure I'm kidding) 100+ shots where it's just a pan around a talking head. Who needs a simple static shot in a Tony Scott movie, those are friggin' boring! Let's get some action and fast-pace there, even when the train is... not moving at 70 MPH until the last half hour of the movie.
The one plus side for Scott is that in a sense he's making a monster movie as much as he's making Speed-on-railroad tracks. There's a moment where Ethan Suplee, who plays a hapless railroad worker, can't catch up to the train he let go on its own and we see what's inside the train: no conductor, and the level pulls itself into its too-friggin-fast position. Oh, and it's 38 cars long of hazardous chemicals that we're reminded of periodically in the movie is like "a missile". So it's almost as if it's like stopping a Japanese monster ala Rodan or something, and in this sense the lack of characters here- nay, seemingly much less than the even thin previous Scott-Denzel movie Pelham 123- might make some sense.
While I could be engaged with the movie on a superficial level, there wasn't anything at the kind of stakes-level or with the clever-kinetic script like a Speed or had the cheesy fun of a Godzilla movie. The trailer with its over-the-top hysterics of a train full of little kids on a field trip and some of the juicier bits between Washington and co- star Chris Pine give an indication that it'll be very dumb-fun. As it turns out it's just a dumb-action movie that has the kind of 'fun' level of too-cool-for-school dialog bits. There's nothing here that is really interesting except that it's a train on the loose and about to demolish a Pennsylvania town of a little under a million people. There are a few moments late in the game when our two Hollywood heroes (one young one near retirement as we're told early on) can stop the train, and it's here that Scott and his writer slips: where's the danger in the stakes really getting raised or someone (spoiler) getting hurt?
It's loud dumb spectacle, but maybe that will work for some less-high- hope viewers. I don't know, maybe it was just a simple work-for-hire on Scott's end, but it could have been something a little better if he had given more for his main actors to do than spout off "Train's going 45 miles, blah blah, two daughters, blah blah, ex-wife, blah blah" type dialog. And as a B-movie it only works adequately in that there is some tension in the final twenty minutes as to what will be the extent of the train damage on the surrounding areas... on the other hand, what damage? Scott's compensation for what is mostly a slow-moving train (you'll drive faster to the theater to see it than the actual train goes) is a lot of his trademark fast-visuals (whiplash style editing and so many pans as to tire out dolly tracks), even when it's a simple scene like the very ending. Sometimes, even with a disaster movie, too much can be TOO much. At least it's not as exasperating as Domino.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?