Runaway Train (1985)

Well at least we now know where Unstoppable got it’s inspiration from.

Jon Voight and Eric Roberts are Manny and Buck, two escapees of an Alaska maximum-security prison who hop aboard a locomotive. When a heart attack fells the engineer, the train careens across the frozen tundra. The fugitives, along with the engineer’s assistant (Rebecca De Mornay), are trapped aboard and must reach the emergency fuel cutoff switch in the lead engine — with the prison warden in hot pursuit.

Basically this is your typical 80’s action thriller film. So cue the cheesy techno music, and corny dialogue.

The one thing that this film does, is that it does keep you somewhat excited. I was on the edge of my seat, not knowing what actually was going to happen, and I must say that’s one of my favorite things about this film. You don’t quite know what’s going to happen, and the tense direction with frantic editing keeps your mind glued to everything.

The only problem is that the script tries act like it’s something more, than it’s really not. The screenplay here tries to focus on the runaway train in this film as a metaphor for life, and how we’re always trying to run from it, and the consequences it has. For me, this just seemed odd since it was placed in a film that really didn’t seem like it needed it. The film tries to be so smart and intelligent, but instead, just doesn’t do anything really special, except for your same old-same old action thriller.

However, I did think that the performances livened this film up a lot more than I expected. Jon Voight is vicious in this role as Manny, and does a good job of keeping that macho-guy look up, as well as doing a great job of keeping us totally scared of him throughout the whole film. Eric Roberts is also good here as Buck, the not-so smart country bumkin, that brings a lot of comedy to this film. It’s just such a shame to see him now on that Celebrity Rehab crap, cause he doesn’t need it honestly, he should just come back and do little roles like The Expendables. I know that won’t hurt anyone. I didn’t really like Rebecca De Mornay in this, because I think her contrived character is only in the film to close a plot hole or two.

Consensus: There are plenty of action thrillers out there that try to be amazing, but this film has good performances and a tense direction that keeps you going, however I couldn’t stand the fact that it tried to be so much smarter than what it really is.



  1. Good review, though I think you are being a bit hard on it you make valid points. While its no masterpiece this film does a great job of building tension, I do agree with you that the ending is a bit anti-climatic and I suppose a little pretentious but I enjoyed myself, I still agree with your overall assessment though that it is a rental film. Really nice write up.

  2. Man, I haven’t seen this since about 1987. I remember it being better than your review gives it credit for, but I’m prepared to accept it may look much the same as watching The Delta Force after a twenty year gap.

    Pretty average.

    Still, my fond memories, and this review, make me want to go back and find it on DVD and have a look. Thanks for bringing back the 80’s!!!

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