Based on an Akira Kurasawa story, this 1985 film is ostensibly an action flick, but it's much more rewarding than your average Stallone or Scharzenegger film of the same period. John Voight excels himself (he was nominated for an Oscar for this performance) as Manny, a prisoner so dangerous he is welded into his cell. When the warden is forced to release him into the prison, Manny duly escapes along with Buck (played by Eric Roberts, brother to Julia), a prison boxer who tags along for the ride. They escape into the Alaskan wilderness and make their way onto a train which unknown to them, is out of conrol.
The imagery of the frozen Alaskan wilderness is excellently captured, as is the sheer brute power and force of the runaway train itself, which is practically a character to itself in the film. The exisential subtext of the film is fairly obvious (Manny being a pure, isolated individual bulleting headlong towards his destiny) but it's not obtrusive - you can enjoy this film simply for the action. There are some brutal setpieces - none of the one-punch-fall-down fighting of other 80s action films - and the acting is superb, especially by Voight (who spent time with real criminals to get Manny's character down, and remained in touch with them for years afterwards), and John Ryan, who plays the warden with soft-padded malevolence. The ending too is unforgettable, a fitting end to one of the finest films of the 1980s.