Runaway Train (UK - BD RB)
Our Marcus boards a train with no driver and couple of escaped convicts...
Based on a screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, Runaway Train tells the story of escaped convicts Manny (Jon Voight) and Buck (Eric Roberts) as during their escape through the Alaskan wilderness board a train only to realise it's engineer has had a heart attack and died. Unfortunately for them, they work this out a bit too late into their ever quickening journey.
Of late Jon Voight isn't really known for his character roles and usually serves up the same slick back haired, well spoken elder gentlemen take on all of his performances. Same goes for Eric Roberts, who's career of late ranges between super over the top performances in low budget films or the occasional bit part in larger films. Well hop back to 1985 and Runaway Train not only has the pair acting their little socks off but it also saw an Oscar nomination for the duo too.
Both actors come loaded with super strong accents, a whole ton of street slang and a butting of heads when it comes to attitude. The performances are both wildly over the top in the drama stakes and not always in tune with the mood of the film but that somehow make their scenes together all the more fun to be around in the ever increasing dire situation. Voight manages to rinse out a fair bit of sadness from his role as opposed to Roberts melodramatic spin and given how the film ends, there's a real sense Voight's Manny is set up as a man of myth or legend than anything based in real life, opting for a rather poetic end to events rather than the total destruction you might expect.
Runaway Train is a good focused drama that keeps locked in on its characters as opposed to getting caught up in the flashy visuals of a runaway locomotive. It's got its fair share of smashes and near misses but this story is about the small number of passengers and their doomed journey. Its fresh faced cast offer up performances that talk about the dilemmas of their lives as much as the situation they are stuck in and the director Andrei Konchalovsky really uses this to make the most of the fairly run of the mill set up.
1985 and Eric Roberts, it doesn't inspire confidence when it comes to quality productions does it but this Blu-ray actually ain't all that bad to look. In fact in certain areas it shines. There's a fair bit of grain, given the lack of direct lighting a lot of the time but it doesn't take away from the generally good looking image here.
There's plenty of depth, some nice black levels and a fair bit of natural colour. Primary colours carry themselves particularly well with blue denim and pinker skin tones sitting very well on the screen. Well lit shots present sharp edges but there's still a handful of hazier shots in the prison and the heavy snow filled exteriors.
The second two thirds of the film in the frozen wilderness or aboard the train is a whole lot of grey, white and general lack of real colour. The layer of fake snow drifts in some of the wider shots can look pretty bleak and lifeless and takes the edge off of the otherwise great image quality but tighter shots with genuine falling snow and blue skies look much better. The same goes for interior scenes. Voights orange hoodie always pops out of the cold surroundings as does the impressive looking sparks from the train wheels or any fire elements.
Last up on the list of highlights is some of the close ups on faces, which are incredibly good. Freckles, wrinkles, stubble, the whole lot of them look really really great and while this isn't really a film that immediately screams good looks, there's plenty to found here on this Blu-ray release.
The LPCM stereo track here is a layered affair with plenty going on. Starting with dialogue, it ranges from low and whispery with hush hush conversations between inmates to loud and proud with prisoners shouting and rioting. On top of that is the many extras in the prison chanting or screaming curses to guards in a near 5.1 sense of range at times. Add the extra elements of sound effects, like rattling keys and slamming doors and the first half of the film, while a little hollow and often coming with a whole lot of disconnected feeling recorded in post dialogue is pretty damn good for such a small title.
Now the visuals manage to stand the test of time but score here is the thing preventing the audio from doing the same. It's so 80s you can almost hear the hairspray going on in the recording session but luckily its used sparingly which keeps the film feeling more like a seventies thriller than an 80s thrill ride, which this isn't really so that's a good thing. The build in tension is left largely to the runaway train sound effects and they vary from background noise to overbearing intensity very well.
The Andrei Konchalovsky interview (15:57 HD) has the director speaking of his experiences on the film and how within the budget restrictions he was still free to do whatever he wanted. He also speaks of the script and the cast and his overall feelings on the film.
Jon Voight (37:49 HD) features in the heftiest of the interviews and he covers plenty of the stories surrounding the film and of course his own feelings on the it. He talks quite openly of his spiritual approach to taking the film and the doubt he had surrounding the project where he plays a criminal.
Eric Roberts (16:02 HD) throws in his thoughts on the film and seems genuinely like a fan of the film as well as his character.
Kyle T. Heffner (17:04 HD) is the last of the interviews and its an interesting take from a lesser know actor as he comments on entering the movie fairly late in a production that was up and running as well as his experience with the director and the role.
Latly there's the trailer as well as a trailer commentary with director Rod Lurie (02:46). He talks of Canon films and the bad films they had made and how fluke of a movie got Voight and Roberts got Oscar nominations. He also mentions that this is the last good Eric Roberts performance, making this another great trailer commentary and I hope to see more from the Arrow releases in the future.
Runaway Train wasn't the thrill ride I'd expected with a title like that but instead balances the typical elements with a fair bit of character depth and near spiritual themes. This make for a solid bit of drama, even if I was sometimes left wanting a bit more smash and crash train action at times. Anyway, the Blu-ray release looks great, despite the odd hazier element and the stereo track does a fine job too. As for the extras, there's a whole lot of interesting interviews on here and makes for an all round great catalogue release.
* Note: The images on this page are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 22nd July 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Interview, Trailer, Trailer with Commentary
Easter Egg: No
Director: Andrey Konchalovskiy
Cast: Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, Rebecca De Mornay
Length: 110 minutes
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