Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 24th, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1985
Director: Andrei Konchalovsky
Writers: Djordje Milicevic, Paul Zindel, Edward Bunker
Based on a Screenplay Written by: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, Rebecca De Mornay, Kyle T. Heffner, John P. Ryan, T.K. Carter, Kenneth McMillan
BluRay released: July 22nd, 2013
Approximate running times: 111 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £13.99
Runaway Train was directed by Andrei Konchalovsky who’s other notable film’s include Maria’s Lover’s and Tango & Cash. Key collaborators include cinematographer Alan Hume (The Legend of Hell House, The Watcher in the Woods) and composer Trevor Jones (Labyrinth, Dark City). The screenplay from which Runaway Train is based off of was originally intended as a project for Akira Kurosawa who due to weather conditions would be forced to abandon said project.
Growing up in the 1980’s I became very familiar with Cannon films and their brand of action cinema. They made by the numbers films that were are always modestly budgeted. And though they would make films beyond their bread and butter, the action genre. None of these other films could ever be accused of trying to be anything more than more good clean fun. That is until I recently had a chance to see a Cannon film that has flown under the radar since its initial release.
The film in question is Runaway Train and even if one was just to judge this film purely by its advertising it is not difficult to see why majority of filmgoers thought this was yet another run of the mill Cannon action film. But then looks can be very deceiving.
Right from the get go it quickly becomes apparent that Runaway Train has a solid foundation. The production design does a superb job seamlessly blending in with the actual locations that are featured in the film. At just under two hours pacing is never an issue as the narrative like its two main characters move frantically towards their fate. And all of the characters are well defined. There is no doubt what everyone’s motivations are?
Speaking of characters and the actors who portray them. This is without a doubt the most surprising aspect of this film. Needless to say this film’s greatest assets are the performances of Jon Voight (Midnight Cowboy) and Eric Roberts (Star 80), in the roles of Oscar ‘Manny’ Manheim and Buck McGeehy, respectively. Also though both characters come from the same maximum security prison. The crimes they have committed in the past and their personalities could not be further apart. The character Manny is a cold blooded killer, while Buck is more in line with a first time offender. It should be noted that both actors would be nominated for Academy Awards for their performances in this film.
Though the two inmates escape from prison serves as this film narrative launching pad. It is not said escape from prison which ultimately drives the narrative or compels us to stick things out with them until the very end. It is this film’s exceptional exploration of the human spirit that not only resonates during and long after the film has ended, but also keeps us coming back to this film time and again.
Runaway Train comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Details look crisp throughout, black and contrast levels look constantly great and there are no issues with compression. Overall a solid transfer that one would be hard pressed to find any faults in it.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD Mono mix English and also included with this release are English SDH subtitles. This is a strong audio mix that has very good depth in range, dialog is always crystal clear and everything sounds balanced.
Extras include a trailer for the film (2 minutes 37 – anamorphic widescreen), Rod Lurie ‘Trailers from Hell’ audio commentary for Runaway Train’s trailer and four interviews, the first interview with director Andrei Konchalovsky (15 minutes 57 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), the second interview with actor Jon Voight (37 minutes 49 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), actor Eric Roberts (16 minutes 2 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and the forth interview with actor Kyle T. Heffner (17 minutes 4 seconds – anamorphic widescreen).
Topics discussed in the interviews include dhow each participant became involved in the project, difficulties that arose during filming, other casting possibilities that never materialized, Cannon’s poor promotion of the film, Voight and Roberts discuss being nominated for Academy awards for the work on this film, the look of the film and so much more.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art and a booklet with a essay about the film written by by Michael Brooke, a new interview with Runaway Train’s Production Designer Stephen Marsh conducted by Calum Waddell and the original Life Magazine article that inspired the film, illustrated with rare behind-the-scenes production images. Overall Runaway Train gets a first rate release from Arrow Video.