Runaway Train (1985)

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Released 10-May-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 106:11 (Case: 111)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:23) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Andrei Konchalovsky

Starring Jon Voight
Eric Roberts
Rebecca De Mornay
Kyle T. Heffner
John P. Ryan
T.K. Carter
Kenneth McMillan
Stacey Pickren
Walter Wyatt
Edward Bunker
Reid Cruickshanks
Dan Wray
Michael Lee Gogin
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Trevor Jones

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Manny (Jon Voight) is an exceptionally hardened prisoner who for the past three years has been welded into his Alaskan prison cell by the equally vicious warden Renken (John P. Ryan). After he gets unwelded thanks to a court order, Manny justifies Renken's preventative action by immediately escaping with a dumb fellow prisoner Buck (Eric Roberts). Faced with certain death in the snowbound Alaskan wilderness, the pair hop aboard a freight train. No sooner do they do this than the driver suffers a fatal heart attack, and the brakes conveniently fail. Also on board is engineer's assistant Sara (Rebecca De Mornay). The trio are trapped on board a speeding train heading for destruction, with seemingly no hope of rescue.

    Runaway Train is based on a screenplay by the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. After reading a magazine article about a runaway locomotive in the mid-1960s, Kurosawa wrote the screenplay and was to direct the film in the US. However, for various reasons the project fell through, and the screenplay was eventually filmed by the Cannon group. Well, an adaptation of the screenplay was filmed. This film resembles Kurosawa's screenplay but there are a number of elements added and changed, mostly for the worse in the view of those who have read the original. This has been described as an existential film, not without cause.

    The film is reasonably well directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, with some nice visuals as well. The film falls a little short of its ambitions, and should be approached like a B-movie with some good ideas rather than a screen classic (which it is not). The performances are good, though often a little over the top: Ryan's Renken seems to be even more of a psychopath than Manny. An enjoyable film, but don't take it too seriously.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is sharp without being of reference quality. There is an amount of detail available, including shadow detail, but overall the transfer falls somewhere between VHS and DVD quality.

    Colours are muted, which seems to have been a deliberate choice. Kurosawa wanted his film to have an almost black and white look, with the dark train highlighted against white snow. Konchalovsky does not quite go to this extreme, but there is little in the way of bright colour in the film. Flesh tones are reasonably lifelike, and blacks are quite black without any noticeable low level noise.

    There is plenty of grain present throughout, a bit more than might be expected.

    Film artefacts are also omnipresent, in the form of dirt and regular white specks.

    Subtitles are clear and match the dialogue for the most part, though they seem to be a trifle large.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change positioned at 54:23 at a cut between shots, and is mildly disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The default audio track is the original English Dolby Digital 2.0 track.

    Dialogue is clear and the audio is quite good, with decent stereo effects matching the on-screen action. Surround encoding is present and effects and music give the rears and especially the subwoofer a workout. This is a reasonably good audio transfer, though perhaps a 5.1 mix would have been useful.

    Music is by Trevor Jones and fits the film well, without being anything out of the ordinary.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer (1:50)

    The trailer is 16x9 enhanced and gives a good idea of what the film is about, though it perhaps does not give a good indication of the tone.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are Region 1 and Region 2 releases of this film already available.

    In comparison to the Region 1, the Region 4 misses out on:

    In comparison to the Region 4, the Region 1 misses out on:

    In comparison to the Region 2, the Region 4 misses out on:

    In comparison to the Region 4, the Region 2 misses out on:

    Despite the presence of a surround mix on the Region 2, the Region 4 is preferable due to the 16x9 enhancement.


    A reasonably entertaining film but not as good as it could have been.

    The video quality is average.

    The audio quality is good.

    The sole extra is a trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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