Runaway Train Blu-ray Movie Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov July 6, 2013
Andrei Konchalovsky's "Runaway Train" (1985) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Arrow Video. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; video interviews with Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, Kyle T. Heffner, and director Andrei Konchalovsky; and a short trailer commentary by director Rod Lurie. The release also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Michael Brooke, a new interview with production designer Stephen Marsh conducted by Calum Waddell, as well as the original Life Magazine article that inspired the film, illustrated with rare behind-the-scenes production images. Also included is a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Joe Wilson. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
The main protagonists in Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky's Runaway Train
could not be any more different. The first two we meet in a maximum security prison somewhere in Alaska. Manny (Jon Voight, Midnight Cowboy
) is an aging bank robber who has recently spent three years locked in solitary confinement. He doesn’t like to talk much, but when he does everyone listens. The second protagonist is Buck (Eric Roberts, The Pope of Greenwich Village
, The Specialist
), a young country bumpkin who loves to talk and throw good punches. He is also a convicted rapist who takes care of everyone’s laundry.
Buck agrees to help Manny escape after he gets stabbed during a boxing match. He hides Manny in his laundry cart and gets him to the prison’s sewers. There he decides to join Manny despite the fact that he does not have the right clothes to survive in the Alaskan backwoods. Manny shows him how to wrap up his body in nylon to keep warm. (Apparently, the body must be greased really well).
Manny and Buck end up at a secluded depot where they jump on a freight train heading south. But immediately after the train begins moving, the engineer suffers a heart attack and dies. Then something happens to the breaks and the train becomes unmanageable.
This is where we meet the third protagonist. Sara (Rebecca De Mornay, Guilty as Sin
, Never Talk to Strangers
) is a maintenance worker who has been taking a nap in one of the train’s four locomotives. She wakes up when the train is already hundreds of miles away from the depot. Somehow she manages to get to the opposite end of the train where Manny and Buck are beginning to suspect that there is something very wrong with their “limousine to Broadway”.
Based on a script by the great Akira Kurosawa, Runaway Train
is a fast yet unusually beautiful action film with a terrific atmosphere. There are some great old-school special effects in it as well, making many of the key sequences looking incredibly authentic.
What makes Runaway Train
different from most other action films from the same era is the fact that it is also a great character study film. Manny, Buck and Sara see the world they live in ways that essentially define who they are. But after they slowly begin to realize that they may never get out of the train alive, they begin to reevaluate “right” and “wrong”. Their clashes over the beliefs they’ve attached to them are just as spectacular as the big crashes in the film. There is one very angry statement, in particular, which Manny delivers in the final third of the film that is simply extraordinary. (In a brand new video interview included on this Blu-ray disc, director Konchalovsky states that Voight apparently scripted it without his help).
The film also has a certain poetic beauty that cannot be described with simple words. It is an integral part of Konchalovsky’s style and is very prominent in his early work. Anyone who has seen his brilliant Siberiade
(1979) will immediately be able to recognize it in Runaway Train
was lensed by British cinematographer Alan Hume, who prior to assisting Konchalovsky collaborated with John Glen on Octopussy
and A View to a Kill
. The film’s terrific ambient soundtrack was created by South African composer Trevor Jones (Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans
, Alan Parker's Angel Heart
: In 1986, Runaway Train
earned three Oscar nominations, including Best Actor in a Leading Role
(Jon Voight) and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Eric Roberts).
Runaway Train Blu-ray Movie, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Andrei Konchalovsky's Runaway Train arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Arrow Video.
Excluding a few tiny specks that pop up early into the film and some extremely light noise that occasionally sneaks in, the technical presentation is indeed as good as I hoped it would be. The majority of the close-ups, even those from inside the train where light is occasionally restricted, look quite wonderful - depth and clarity are very pleasing (see screencaptures #2 and 4). The larger panoramic shots also boast consistently pleasing fluidity despite the fact that many of them were obviously shot under different conditions (see screencaptures #1 and 5). Colors are well saturated and stable, never appearing boosted. Contrast levels are stable. Furthermore, there are absolutely no traces of excessive degraining corrections. Sharpening corrections have not been applied either. Unsurprisingly, the film has a very solid and very stable organic look. Lastly, compression is also very good. When blown through a digital projector, the film remains tight around the edges and appropriately crisp. To sum it all up, anyone who has previously seen Runaway Train on DVD will be enormously pleased with the film's transition to Blu-ray. There are notable upgrades in every single area we typically address in our reviews. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Runaway Train Blu-ray Movie, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Arrow Video have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
I am very pleased with the lossless track. Trevor Jones' score is as atmospheric as Simon Boswell's score in Hardware and the lossless track really allows it to shine in all the right places. The synthesizers, in particular, sound great. The dialog and the various noises from train are also pleasingly crisp. For the record, there are no audio dropouts, distortions, or pops.
Runaway Train Blu-ray Movie, Special Features and Extras
- Jon Voight - in this video interview, actor Jon Voight discusses his contribution to Runaway Train, his relationship with Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky, and the character he plays (Oscar 'Manny' Manheim). Mr. Voight also discusses the contribution of cinematographer Alan Hume, who prior to Runaway Train had worked on a number of Bond films, the Oscar nominations the film received, how its distribution was handled by The Cannon Group Inc., etc. The interview was directed by Calum Waddell. In English, not subtitled. (38 min).
- Andrei Konchalovsky - in this video interview, director Andrei Konchalovsky discusses the production history of Runaway Train, and specifically his relationship with The Cannon Group Inc., his relationship with Jon Voight who helped him come to America, the casting of Rebecca De Mornay as well as Jodie Foster's desire to play her character, the style of the film, its disastrous distribution campaign, etc. The interview was directed by Calum Waddell. In English, not subtitled. (16 min).
- Eric Roberts - in this video interview, Eric Roberts recalls how he became involved in Runaway Train, his first impression of the script he was sent, his impressions of director Andrei Konchalovsky and his directing style, what it was like working with Jon Voight, etc. The interview was directed Joe Venegas. In English, not subtitled. (16 min).
- Kyle T. Heffner - in this video interview, Kyle T. Heffner (Frank Barstow) discusses his contribution to Runaway Train, the character he plays in the film, some of the specific requirements Andrei Konchalovsky had for him, the hilarious restroom scene, etc. The interview was directed by Calum Waddell. In English, not subtitled. (18 min).
- Trailer - original trailer for Runaway Train. In English, not subtitled. (3 min).
- Trailer Commentary - a short commentary by director Rod Lurie (The Last Castle, The Contender) who quickly addresses the film's distribution, the Akira Kurosawa connection, and the cast. In English, not subtitled. (3 min).
- Booklet - illustrated booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Michael Brooke, a new interview with Runaway Train's production designer Stephen Marsh conducted by Calum Waddell, as well as the original Life Magazine article that inspired the film, illustrated with rare behind-the-scenes production images.
- Cover Art - Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Joe Wilson.
Runaway Train Blu-ray Movie, Overall Score and Recommendation
Runaway Train's transition to Blu-ray is very pleasing, but I was really impressed with the supplemental features on this release. The long interview with Jon Voight is the best extra I've seen produced by Arrow Video to date. The entire history of the film is in it, shared by one of America's greatest living actors. Buy with confidence, folks. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.