A Real Great Train Wreck

Tired of having your circuits overloaded by CSI? Longing for the kind of thrills that come not from guys crawling along the floor in front of a blue screen (to be filled in later by computer) but from gutsy stunt men doing actual stunts?

If so, then get yourself a copy of Runaway Train. This gritty 1985 film was written by a fascinating crew, from Ed Bunker, the former San Quentin inmate turned director (Straight Time, The Longest Yard) to the renowned Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Not only that, but it stars Jon Voigt, Eric Roberts, and Rebecca de Mornay; and was directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, a member of the Russian film aristocracy.

This one-of-a-kind gem starts with a hard-ass escape from a maximum security prison in Alaska, and is not appealing at first (due to what used to be graphic violence and an unpleasant trip through a sewer). But mercifully, it soon plunges the two anti-heroes, escaped prisoners Manny (Voigt) and Bunk (Roberts), into the vast, frozen wilderness, where they hop what turns out to be the wrong train.

Before long they are hurtling across the frozen landscape, sans conductor and sans brakes, and their reactions are not pretty, Manny being the hardest of the hard and Bunk the callowest of the callow. But when they discover they are not alone, that their onrushing fate is shared by a young female assistant engineer (de Mornay), the story lifts off and soars to a whole different level.

To repeat, what you see on the screen is a real train (four engines coupled together) hurtling through some real bleak, real Arctic, real estate. And the interaction among the unwilling passengers, torn between wanting to live and wanting to stay free, is even more real. Pay attention to what happens at the end, because this is not a trivial action flick but something more akin to a short story by Tolstoy. Needless to say, they don't make 'em like that any more.

October 27, 2007 6:51 PM |



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This page contains a single entry by Martha Bayles published on October 27, 2007 6:51 PM.

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