Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Best Actor 1985: Jon Voight in Runaway Train

Jon Voight received his third Oscar nomination for playing Oscar "Manny" Manheim a convict in a Alaskan Prison in Runaway Train.

Runaway Train is a rather odd and not that effective of thriller involving two convicts who try to get away from a prison by taking a train which becomes a runaway train. It efforts at being thrilling are weak, and its attempts at philosophy are strange and odd at best. 

Jon Voight plays the basically the head of the prisoners in an Alaskan Maximum security prison. Voight plays his character as a tough no nonsense guy who is always in command of his situation. Voight uses a accent which works most of the time, although in parts it seems a little odd. Voight does do a good job at showing the way his character is in charge at all times. He has the proper command and strength in the role.His scenes where he yells at the warden and tells other people what to do, are very well done.

Voight's performance is hindered quite a bit by the other actors and the script though. Voight basically has no equal here, and he not that good even, so he cannot create any scenes that work well with the other actors, since Eric Roberts gives one of the worst nominated performances ever, it was like he was doing Jim Varney's Ernest character. He and Roberts create nothing together since Roberts is so bad in this performance.

Problems though arise also from the script since the script really does not decide who the character of Manny really is. Is he an evil criminal, just a normal guy who has lost his mind, or in some way a good guy. The script though changes the way his character is suppose to be over and over. In one scene it seems like he is concerned for the other prisoners than in another he is being very evil and selfish wanting the prisoner to die for him. The scripts just is not very good, but Voight does try his best to accommodate the current nature of his character made by the script. When he needs to be concerned and good he is just that, when he is suppose to be insane he really seems insane, and when he seems evil he seems evil.  He is unable to connect these differing aspects of the character even though he tries. Such as when he kind of looks upon himself as evil but even that is not perfectly done. Also at a few times he goes a little over the top such as when he is yelling at the end. He does try his hardest it seems and he does succeed at times despite how bad the script is. But still he never creates that good of a performance due to these set backs.


Anonymous said...

He overdid it, in my opinion. So did Eric Roberts.

joe burns said...

Never mind, I guess he'll be fourth instead.

Pode K. said...

It deserved the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Actor and Eric Roberts knocked it out of the ballpark. "Nobody said anything about 300 feet". Great line in the movie. Voight plays a criminal-obviously diverse because he does not know really what he believes and in the end decides it doesn't matter. "I'm at war with with world and everybody in it.". He and Roberts are sociopaths, "over did it"??? His changes of persona in the movie are purposeful-again, he is a criminal mind, knows what is right, but admits when asked if he could clean floors, toilets "I wish I could, I wish I could". One of the 100 top films of all time.

Halifax said...

I am with you Pode K. This is one of the best movies I have ever seen and can't believe I hadn't heard of it until a few years ago. Unstoppable is a piece of crap film that stole its entire story from either Runaway Train or the true story that supposedly inspired it. As a self-identified anarchist and train junky I can identify with the film in a way I think might be lost on others, even if there are "factual" discrepancies. What other film will give you so much pure continuous action on a freight train? Also, one must view the film historically as, for example, what the struggle looks like from the ground up in the west between working class/down and outs and the Christian/capitalist system. The warden is the patriarchal system that will stop at nothing to be RIGHT and have the last word.
Voight is the proletariat. The down and out worker. The film must be viewed symbolically and what it means to struggle with total conviction for self-autonomy while facing the inevitable problem of causing destruction and hurting others in the process. This film has guts.