Runaway Train does what it says on the tin, but before we get to that, we’re introduced to hard-nut criminal Oscar ‘Manny’ Manheim (Jon Voight), who’s just being released back into the general population of the remote prison in Alaska, where he’s being held, after three years in solitary confinement.
The powers that be have allowed this, even though it’s much to the chargrin of Warden Ranken (John P. Ryan, playing a wonderful bastard, here, and one of the highlights of the cast) who’d love to, as they say in Hollywood films, “punch his ticket”, despite that being rather on the illegal side. That said, Manny would like to be out of his hair, although, but his plan is to escape from the prison, which he achieves alongside Buck (Eric Roberts), the character being a bit of a simpleton, rather like Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men.
The only real downside of escaping from where they are, is that the weather is 30 degrees below outside.
Once making the mistake of boarding the train in question, the engineer has a heart attack and dies, leaving the train running along at speed, gaining as it goes. Trying to deal with this is the man who designed the new computer system which doesn’t seem to be stopping the train, Frank Barstow (Kyle T. Heffner), his assistant Dave Prince (T.K. Carter) and their boss, Eddie MacDonald (Kenneth McMillan). Also getting caught up on the ride is Rebecca De Mornay as Sara, a railway worker who just happens to have been unlucky enough to be on this train.
Of the cast, Eric Roberts never was the best actor in the world (god knows how he got a nomination for Best Supporting Actor), but Jon Voight can act most people off the screen. Bringing up the rear in second position is Ryan as Warden Ranken, then Heffner as Barstow, the latter two having a fantastic argument that results in a bathroom scene that was carried out in one single take.
As an aside, it’s quite amusing that as one train co-ordinator, Cassidy, gets word out to another (at 36:30) that there’s a runaway train on track two, just before it cuts away from Cassidy, the apparent train behind him seems to come to a stop.
Runaway Train has some great ’80s synth bass that you’d never get in any other Jon Voight thriller. I hadn’t actually seen this film before, but thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone. I can see how it might drag a bit on repeated viewings, as they all try various things to stop the train which, it’s safe to say, are unlikely to work because if they did, then the film would finish very early.
Go to page 2 for the presentation and the extras.
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.