On The Run
Running Time: 113 minutes
UK Certificate: 15
Country: Belgium, France
Bruno Le Roux (Lucas Belvaux) is on the run. After a daring and violent prison break-out, he is determined to restart his armed campaign against capitalism just where he left it off 15 years ago. Only now there is no longer any revolution, his former friends and colleagues have settled down into family life or become career gangsters in cahoots with the police, and a security cordon is closing in. Armed with an array of guns and explosives and an assortment of fake beards and moustaches, Bruno decides to go it alone, but instead of rescuing the proletariat from oppression, he ends up saving the last person expected – Agnes (Dominique Blanc), a junkie suffering serious withdrawal who also just happens to be the wife of Police Inspector Pascal (Gilbert Malki).
‘On the Run’, along with the forthcoming An Amazing Couple and After Life, forms a trilogy of films written and directed by Lucas Belvaux. Each of the films has its own story to tell in its own generic style (the first film being a noir thriller, the second a comedy and the third a melodrama), but all three unfold within the same period of time, and are linked by a common core of characters, making the trilogy a bold yet accessible experiment which finds its closest parallels in Kieslowski’s ‘Three Colours’ cycle or Takashi Miike’s ‘Dead or Alive’ series. Each of Belvaux’s films can be viewed apart as a complete work in its own right, but when seen together, they form a complicated tapestry of varied lives, invisible connections and missed opportunities, adding up to something more than its mere parts.
With its austerely cool double-bass score, its lengthy sequences in half-light, its indirect presentation of violence and death, its treacherous femme fatale, and its doomed hero, ‘On the Run’ bears all the hallmarks of film noir, an backward-looking genre well suited to the backward-looking protagonist. It is a central irony of this film that the man ‘on the run’ is a relic of a bygone era who is really standing still while the rest of the world gallops ahead, a paradox neatly captured near the film’s beginning when the camera fixes on the fugitive Bruno staring out a train’s window as the outside scenery races by.
It would have been all too easy to make this rebel-with-a-long-dead-cause a figure of fun, but like Bruno himself, ‘On the Run’ opts to do things the hard way, taking its main character and his predicament entirely seriously. What emerges is the spectacle of a highly resourceful, totally committed warrior seeing his out-moded moral code through to its inevitable conclusion in a world which no longer has any place for him. This elevates the film to unexpected heights of tragedy, and the final images of Bruno’s isolation and futile struggle against the elements on a snowy mountain are as sublime as anything you are ever likely to see.
It's Got: Engrossing drama punctuated by sudden acts of violence, a resourceful hero with lots of fake facial hair, and a character called Banana
It Needs: Nothing
Alternatives:After Life, An Amazing Couple, Le Samourai, Running on Empty, The Wild Bunch
A compelling noir tragedy spun out of one man's heroic intransigence. Recommended even if you have no intention of seeing the other films in 'La Trilogie'.