Saturday, January 30, 2010

Movie Moments: Runaway Train

If you see only one movie before departing this world, make it Runaway Train. I guarantee that by the end of the flick, you will feel drained, not by the physical action but by the emotional intensity. This movie ranks in my personal Top Ten, which means it must be seen. Rent, buy, borrow or steal it.
The Plot:
Jon Voight, in the performance of his career plays, Oscar “Manny” Mannheim, a hardened convict in a brutal maximum security prison in Alaska. Manny, accompanied by another prisoner “Buck” (Eric Roberts, also in the performance of his career) escapes from the prison, pursued by Rankin, the vengeful warden of the prison. Manny and Buck, with a female rail employee, send up on an uncontrollable runaway train, as the name of the movie implies.
Why a great flick?
Some reasons why the movie is great and a masterpiece:
- the brilliant acting performances;
- the interplay of the characters of Manny and Rankin and of Manny and Buck;
- the themes of personal freedom, sacrifice, what is good and what is evil, and the theme of the strength that lies within us
- the themes of the animal within us as against the civilised, human condition, and of men being turned into animals
I could do a doctoral thesis on this movie, there I so much beyond the surface, so many aspects. Thoughts and images from this film will keep coming back to you long after the credits have rolled. It is much, much more than an action flick. Look at the closing scene and the final moments, which sum up more than in words what the movie is trying to say.
Some trivia:
- John Voight is Angela Jolie’s dad.
- Eric Roberts is Julia Roberts’ brother.
- Jon Voight was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor but missed out to William Hurt for Kiss of the Spider Woman. He should have gotten it.
- Eric Roberts was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor but lost to Don Ameche in Cocoon. He should have gotten his.
- The pic wasn’t nominated for the best picture, which that year (1985) went to Out of Africa.
- In preparing or the role, Jon Voight spent time with prisoners in San Quentin Prison, staying in touch with some for a long period afterwards.
A Scene:
Buck, who is of limited intelligence and more reliant on action, tells Manny what he is going to do after they get away. Manny, the realist, tells him how limited their choices really are…
Buck: I know this jug outside Frisco-- good for half a million. They had a payroll for S&H Sugar, and S&H Sugar is a big outfit, man. Yeah, that's what I've been dreaming about. A really good score, you know what I mean? And I'm gonna party. Yeah. Shit, I'm gonna go to Mardi Gras. I'm gonna go to Vegas, and I'm gonna go with enough money in my hip pocket... to catch 'em fine bitches, you know what I mean? You know, I've spent almost every night of my life... dreaming about this kind of shit.
Manny: Dreaming?
Buck: Yeah.
Manny: Dreaming. That's bullshit. You're not gonna do nothing like that. I'll tell you what you're gonna do! You're gonna get a job. That's what you're gonna do. You're gonna get a little job-- some job a convict can get... Iike scraping off trays at a cafeteria or cleaning out toilets. And you're gonna hold on to that job like gold... because it is gold! Let me tell you, Jack. That is gold. You listening to me? And when that man walks in at the end of the day... and he comes to see how you done... you ain't gonna look in his eyes. You're gonna look at the floor... because you don't wanna see that fear in his eyes... when you jump up and grab his face and slam him to the floor... and make him scream and cry for his life. So you look right at the floor, Jack. Pay attention to this, motherfucker. And then he's gonna look around the room-- see how you done. And he's gonna say, "Oh, you missed a little spot over there. Jeez, you didn't get this one here. What about this little bitty spot?" And you're gonna suck all that pain inside you... and you're gonna clean that spot. And you're gonna clean that spot... until you get that shining clean. And on Friday, you'll pick up your paycheck. And if you could do that... you could be president of Chase Manhattan-- corporations. If you could do that.
Buck: Not me, man. I wouldn't do that kind of shit. I'd rather be in jail.
Manny: More's the pity, youngster. More the pity.
Buck: Could you do that kind of shit?
Manny: I wish I could. I wish I could.

Noted film critic Roger Ebert describes this as possibly the best single scene that Voight has ever played.
Let me have some feedback if you watch or have seen the movie.

1 comment:

  1. Everything you said. This is why I moved into acting. This is the scene that made the light bulb go on for me and showed what was possible. As it happens, I was doing a B.G.extra gig one day in Northern Cal and he was on the set. There wasn’t a wall between the extras and the principals on this production, and he was receptive to talking to people. I am grateful that I was to share with him how inspirational to me his performance in this scene was.


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