Virtual Movie Review: Runaway Train

Runaway Train

The recent prison break in New York reminded me of this 1985 movie, starring Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, and Rebecca De Mornay, with the screenplay reworked from an earlier version by Akira Kurosawa.

Here’s a review by Roger Ebert, who liked it a lot, as did I.

WWW hyperlinks:  enabling laziness since 1994


12 thoughts on “Virtual Movie Review: <i>Runaway Train</i>”

  1. I liked it a lot. I still remember (and mimic) Jon Voights character’s line (as he encourages Eric Roberts to, as I recall, get to the engine with the train racing at high speed in icy conditions) “YOUUU CAN DOOO THIS” shouted in the convicts’ (Voight’s) weird accent.

    I’m quite sure no one has ever gotten the reference when I’ve mouthed it.

  2. One of the real surprises of the movie is Rebecca De Mornay in a decidedly unglamorous role. I didn’t realize it was her until the credits rolled.

  3. Laziness is one of the primary mothers of invention. Another is, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if…”

  4. 19th century Prussian Field Marshal von Moltke had a classification matrix for leaders:

    Intelligent & Lazy: I make them my Commanders because they make the right thing happen, and find the easiest way to accomplish the mission.

    Intelligent & Energetic: I make them my General Staff Officers because they make intelligent plans that make the right things happen.

    Stupid & Lazy: There are menial tasks that require an officer to perform; they follow orders without causing much harm.

    Stupid & Energetic: These are dangerous and must be eliminated. They cause things to happen, but the wrong things, and so create trouble.

    Ernst Junger had a different variation on a related subject. He classified the reliability of the troops:

    most reliable were foot soldiers. Next came the heavy cavalry cuirassiers. Finally hussars, sailors, and aviators.
    In his words: “The faster someone can move, the more closely he has to be watched.”

  5. “The faster someone can move, the more closely he has to be watched.”

    Agree totally. I have previously seen von Moltke’s rules.

    The nephew was not nearly as wise.

    Moltke was called to the Kaiser who had been told by Prince Karl Max Lichnowsky that the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey had offered French neutrality under guarantee of Great Britain.[2] At this news, the Kaiser, seeing that a two front war could be avoided, told Moltke to reverse the western front forces to the eastern one against Russia. At this, Moltke refused, arguing that such a drastic alteration of a long planned major mobilization could not be done without throwing the forces into organizational chaos and the original plan now in motion must be followed through.

    It might not have been possible although this is disputed, but the war might have been avoided.

  6. Apparently, the von Moltke leadership classification is most likely apocryphal. It sounds better coming from him because few have probably heard of Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord, who was probably thinking of himself in the smart and lazy role, but it’s too bad Germany didn’t produce more lazy commanders like him.

    The rules are, however, in the spirit of von Motlke’s thinking. From his essays on military theory:

    In general, one does well to order no more than is absolutely necessary and to avoid planning beyond the situations one can fore see. These change vary rapidly in war. Seldom will orders that anticipate far in advance and in detail succeed completely to execution. This shakes the confidence of the subordinate commander and it gives the units a feeling of uncertainty when things develop differently than what the high command’s order had presumed. Moreover, it must be pointed out that if one orders much, then the important thing that needs to be carried out unconditionally will be carried out only incidentally or not at all because it is obscured by the mass of secondary things and those which are valid only under the circumstances. The higher the authority, the shorter and more general will the orders be. The next lower command adds what further precision appears necessary. The detail of the execution is left to the verbal order, to the command. Each thereby retains freedom of action and decision within his authority. One will not wish to articulate motives, expectations, and intents in orders because of concerns for secrecy. On the other hand, it is indispensable that the subordinate authorities recognize the object of the one who gave the orders in order to strive for the goal when circumstances demand that they act other than as was ordered.

  7. “one does well to order no more than is absolutely necessary ”

    There is a myth that the German army was rigid and Americans were improvisors. The Germans had far fewer officers to troops ratios and the German Army, from all I have read, was largely run by noncoms in tactical situations.

    The American Army has been top-heavy with officers for as long as I have been reading about it and is a great example of an “Industrial Age Army.”

    Lower ranks did great things like the sergeant who built the first tank driven hedgerow shears.

    They were called “Rhinos” and Eisenhower gave a lot of credit to the sergeant who thought of it.

    The invention of a hedge-breaching device is generally credited to Curtis G. Culin, a sergeant in the 2nd Armored Division’s 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. However, military historian Max Hastings notes that Culin was inspired by “a Tennessee hillbilly named Roberts”,[6] who during a discussion about how to overcome the bocage, said “Why don’t we get some saw teeth and put them on the front of the tank and cut through these hedges?” Rather than joining in the laughter that greeted this remark, Culin recognized the idea’s potential.

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