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Through All Obstacles
with: Jon Voight, Eric Roberts ,Rebecca deMornay
| I'm a railfan -- i try to go to virtually every
"train" movie that i hear about. I've seen some mediocre films (Breakheart
Pass), some GodAwful Films (The Cassandra Crossing) and some Pretty Good
films (Silver Streak) that way.
And i saw "Runaway Train" -- an Incredible Film.
With Jon Voight nominated for Both Oscar and Golden Globe (which he won)
as Best Actor, and Eric Roberts nominated for both Oscar and Golden Globe
as Best Supporting Actor, and featuring Rebecca deMornay in a decidedly
UN-glamourous role, this is obviously not your standard action film.
And when one adds that the original screenplay was by Akira Kurosawa, one
realises that this is NOT the usual Golan-Globus production at all, at all.
In brief, the story is simple -- two cons, one old and experienced and dangerous
and one young, cocky and ignorant, break out of a max security prison in
Alaska, hop a train headed for the Lower 48, and find themselves (along with
a female railroad worker) on a hair-raising ride to nowhere on a runaway
train with no brakes and no engineer.
But the performances and the nuances make this film Something Special Indeed.
Voight's portrayal of Manny, the man so dangerous that for three years his
cell door was welded shut, is scary, compelling and sympathetic by
turns. "Anything that doesn't kill me makes me stronger" is his motto.
Eric Roberts's performance as the cocky young loser, destined to spend major
parts of his life inside, who can't even recognise good advice when Manny
practically rubs his nose in it, is at almost the same level, and honestly
deserving of the "Best Supporting" nominations he earned for it.
John P. Ryan, as Assistant Warden Rankin, Manny's antagonist and would-be
nemesis, is adequate, but not up to the level of performance of Voight and
In the end, after all of the incredible stunt work and amazing train work,
after all of the violence and emotion, it comes down to two big men (Manny
and Rankin) finally confronting each other, in one final test to prove which
is the stronger.
Along the way, Voight, playing the existential monster to the hilt, gives
us a view of a man who knows all too vividly that he long ago chose the wrong
road, but also knows that there is no turning back for him.
When the girl screams at him that he is an animal, he replies "No -- Worse!
He tries to set the kid straight -- tells him that if he's smart he'll find
a job flipping burgers or scrubbing toilets, and do it well and earn his
pay -- "...and, if you could do that, you could be President of the United
States." But the kid knows better -- he wonders why this big tough guy is
talking such nonsense; and he doesn't hear the longing in Manny's voice.
And the final confrontation and the end -- after one last, horrifying and
exhilirating stunt sequence -- is exactly what the film needs for its perfect
conclusion; as exhilirating and appropriate in its way as the end of "Thelma
& Louise" or of "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid".
Be warned -- this is a brutally, horrifyingly violent film (i spent a lot
of time wincing and cringing, reacting in a way that most film violence doesn't
bother me), and the language used, while probably somewhat less graphic than
actual cons would use, is not for Little Old Ladies.
Add in the Almost Perfect portrayal of railroading (there is one major departure
from the way a real railroad would Do Things, but it's necessary for the
film to work, and it could happen), some incredible cinematography,
and generally perfect design and execution of sets and costume, and you have
got one incredible film experience; a thrill ride you will NOT soon forget.
((Knowing that Kurosawa wrote the original screenplay and had intended to
make this film himself, i kept trying to guess whether Manny or Rankin would
have been played by Toshira Mifune...))