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  • Stephen D Blum Jr

Runaway Train

The movie Runaway Train is a 1985 American independent action thriller film, directed by Andrea Konchalovskiy and starring John Voight, Eric Roberts, Rebecca De Mornay and John P Ryan.

The story concerns two escaped convicts and a female railroad worker who are stuck on a runaway train is at barrels thru the snowy desolation of Alaska. Voight and Roberts were both nominated for Academy Awards for their respective roles. Voight plays the brutal convict Manny Manheim who escapes prison and the abuse of its sadistic Associate Warden, Ranken, with a younger inmate, Buck McGeehy in a meticulous plot that quickly goes off the rails.

After an arduous cross-country hike, including a swim across a freezing river, the two hop on board train as stowaways. When the elderly railroad engineer has a heart attack, the driverless train accelerates as dispatchers are alerted to the situation. They try to keep the tracks clear, but the runaway smashes the caboose of another train. The collision damages the cab of the lead locomotive and jams the front door of the second engine. The convicts are now trapped on an ever-accelerating runaway train.

The authorities soon figure out that someone is on the train and cancel plans for a derailment. Warden Ranken discovers that his two escaped convicts are fleeing by rail. Meanwhile, the two fugitives are discovered by Sara, a locomotive hostler who convinces them that jumping off the train would be suicidal and explains that the only way to stop the train would be to climb into the lead engine and press its kill-switch, a near-impossible feat. As they do this, they manage to shut down the third and fourth locomotives and they nearly derail on a bridge.

Dispatchers divert the runaway onto a branch after determining it is only five minutes away from a head-on collision. Further ahead the train has a tight curve near a chemical plant. Authorities agree that they must crash it, thus condemning the three people, rather than risk a chemical explosion. Warden Ranken forces the dispatchers to help him reach the train by helicopter. Manny tries to force Buck into a suicidal scramble around the outside of the second engine's frozen nose. Sara's intervention on Buck's behalf forces an armed face-off. Emotionally broken, all three slump into depression. Suddenly Ranken's accomplice is lowered from a helicopter to the lead engine but falls through the windshield of the second engine, and then under the train.

Spurred on by the appearance of his arch-enemy and resolved not to return to prison, Manny makes a perilous leap to the lead engine. He barely makes it, crushing his hand. Ranken boards the locomotive from the helicopter, but Manny ambushes and handcuffs him. Ranken orders Manny to stop the train before it crashes, but Manny has chosen to die rather than be recaptured. Ranken says that he knows how to die too. When reminded of Buck and Sara in the second engine, Manny uncouples his out-of-control lead engine. He waves goodbye, ignoring Buck's screaming pleas to shut down the lead engine, and climbs onto the roof of the lone engine in the freezing snow, his arms stretched out, ready to meet his end. Buck and Manny's fellow inmates mourn in their cells as the lone engine disappears into the storm. The film closes with an on-screen quote from William Shakespeare's Richard III:

"No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity."

"But I know none, and therefore am no beast."

Can you see a parallel? Mankind, ever the criminal, in his mad and ill-fated enterprise to escape God's justice, and unable to escape the powerful machine of his own making, is hurtling to certain destruction. Like Manny, upon discovering the situation is no longer in his control, he refuses to repent and face justice, but defiantly mounts the throbbing beast of steel, shaking his fist defiantly at fate . . at God.

It is a riveting movie that you will not be able to leave, like a bloody scene of carnage that horrifies, yet demands your attention. This present world, the collective contrivance of Adam's fallen sons rides the razor edge of control, which will soon be recognized as unraveling chaos. Like the doomed flock of children in William Golding's LORD OF THE FLIES, civilization is a veneer, an artifice of Man, rising, falling and reappearing with predictable sameness. Man attempts and even succeeds in conquering many ills, yet cannot conquer himself. "Who will save me from the body of this death?!" is the cry of the Man in Romans 7.

Are you unable to dismount the life, the monster made by your own hands that you know is going to kill you in the end? Jesus is not dead, but alive! He is not the enemy, but the friend of sinners. I called upon Him in the day of trouble, and He came . . for ME. And He will come for you too . .

"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13)

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