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Runaway Train (1985) // Watch With Spooool #7

This is a follow-up to our April/May “Watch With Spooool”. Listen to the podcast for more and check out May/June’s Mad Max post here.

runaway train

Verdict: ★★

Released: 1985

Awards: It won Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Drama and Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama for Jon Voight

Fun Fact: First film appearance by Danny Trejo

Jon Voight plays Oscar Manheim, a renowned robber and escape artist who is so likely to escape he is kept in a welded iron cage. He takes his case to the commission of human rights and when his release into the ordinary prison population is granted, it isn’t long before a plan is hatched.

Along with Buck McGeehy (Eric Roberts), the duo manage to break free and stowaway on a train. Yet in a freak accident, the train driver has a heart attack and falls off, leaving it driver-less and unable to slow down. The plot thickens. Over the next hour or so we cut between the railway control tower trying to avert a catastrophe and Buck and Oscar stuck on the train slowly beginning to realise their predicament. Throw in the daft plot point of adding Rebecca De Mornay as a worker who fell asleep on the job and now finds herself stuck with two criminals and the film is rounded out.

If the runaway train wasn’t enough to contend with, Oscar has to try and stay out of the clutches of Warden Ranken played by John P. Ryan. who is determined to get his prisoner dead or alive.

Lauded upon it’s release for it’s gritty realism and an intense performance from Voight, the film hasn’t aged well. The acting seems hammy and over the top which jars with the violence in the prison scenes seeming all too real. The action pieces on the train are impressive and must have been a nightmare to shoot but only when you realise that none of it is CGI. The parts in the control tower come off as a poor mans The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

It’s obvious to see I wasn’t a massive fan of the film, but it’s interesting to see one of Eric Roberts early outings, a solid turn from Jon Voight and raw prison depictions.

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Páraic wanted to be a gangster as far back as he can remember. Brought up on a diet of films he was too young to be watching by his brothers, all things 80s teens thanks to his sisters and the classics by his folks he's turned into a well-rounded (maybe a little too round) film lover. Only recently discovering North by Northwest, he longs for a train journey with a beautiful blond.

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