Review: Kanye West’s RUNAWAY

Sean Hunter

by: Sean Hunter
October 24th, 2010


Rating: 2/5

Writer: Hype Williams, Kanye West (story)
Director: Kanye West
Cast: Kanye West, Selita Ebanks

Every era of music has its favorite provocateur. Though I'd hardly place Kanye West on the top of this list, he has certainly etched his name in the pantheon of "crazy dude"s. If last year's VMA outburst didn't cause you to take note, just check out Kanye's Twitter account and try to convince yourself he's not at least a little bit manic. Despite his madness (or maybe because of it), Kanye West continues to generate amazing music. After some time out of the spotlight, Kanye has returned with more drive and passion than ever before, so much that it's trickling over into other mediums outside of music.

RUNAWAY is the name of Kanye's first directorial effort, which runs in the same vein as Michael Jackson's THRILLER short film, blending music and cinema. Kanye himself has likened his impact to that of Elvis, with RUNAWAY he might be more of a Spike Jonze.

RUNAWAY follows the story of a man who happens upon a fallen phoenix (literally - the half sexy lady, half feather duster bird falls out of the sky). Kanye takes the phoenix under his care and begins to develop feelings for it/her. Soon though, the Phoenix begins to wish for more and Kanye must cope with what may be an inevitable loss. Using some imaginative costume work and artistic visuals, Kanye aims to make a film about love and life.

While RUNAWAY is Kanye's first foray into a world outside of music, he brings a lot of his previous talents and shortcomings with him. The film features some new tracks from Kanye's upcoming album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy." Spanning from hard rap to atmospheric, beat-driven vocal tracks, RUNAWAY's musical spread is as wide-reaching as the themes the film tries to capture. But try as it might, the film fails to obtain much outside of some stunning visuals and a peek into Kanye's psyche. I do believe that Kanye is working on a level of musical passion beyond many others in the industry currently. This may be the downfall of RUNAWAY, Kanye simply doesn't have the tools to transform his passion into film. RUNAWAY does come close to achieving something special a few times (see Nicki Minaj's narration at the beginning). Unfortunately, we end up getting a lot of heavy-handed attempts to convey a fairly basic message centering around redemption and the loss that accompanies the journey.

What you're getting in RUNAWAY is nothing you can't find in his VH1Storytellers show or more craftily woven within his lyrics. There is, however, one moment in the film that hits everything on the nose - an emotionally charged ballet number featuring the song "Runaway" on which the film is named. During the scene I couldn't help but feel as if, had the rest of the movie not existed, "Runaway" would be one of the better music videos of all time. In the end, that's really what I took away from RUNAWAY, each beautiful piece of the puzzle adds up to something rather hallow. Kanye's got some definite directing talent, but he needs a stronger filter and more narrative focus to really be effective. I doubt this will be the last time Kanye reaches outside of his medium, but as long as his music remains, there will always be reason to pay attention to Kanye West.

Check out the entire unedited film below.


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  • Michelle

    s everyone going to ignore the obvious racial views Kanye has expressed in this film?

    We have a dinner table full of successful people, all of the same race, while other races (primarily Caucasian) serve and entertain them while Kanye takes credit for their brilliant performance. I think that most of us would agree today that this wasn’t acceptable when the roles were reversed. So why is it now? The roles in this video could have been filled by anyone, yet the choice was made to show separation. This is not a progressive choice. Rather that encouraging mutual success, statements like these encourage further generations of hostility. Why is it impossible for us to show the rise of one race without showing the fall of another?

    Regardless of how much talent, production, and beauty was seen in this film, what resonates with me is the political statements that were made.

  • marykate

    Respectfully, Michelle, you are dumb. If anything is wrong with this strange musical short film, it’s the exceedingly heavyhanded and clumsy symbolism that Kanye employs in an attempt to explain himself. Turning the tables by showing white people serving black people is not offensive. It’s clearly a commentary on past and present racism. It was meant to make a point and apparently it worked since you took note of the way that your expectations were subverted.
    You’re right, though, depicting black servants WOULD be offensive, due to the hundreds of years of oppression and degradation that would reference. No one will ever feel sorry for white people, sorry.

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