Highly acclaimed director Tony Scott and superstar Denzel Washington have teamed up once again to be working on the railroad. Last year’s remake of “The Taking of Pelham 123” has now been followed by “Unstoppable.”
Based loosely on the true events of a 2001 runaway CSX freight train in Ohio, screenwriter Mark Bombeck (“Live Free or Die Hard”) gives us a thrilling 99-minute journey you night want to have for your home DVD collection. You don’t need to like trains to enjoy this unique and disaster adventure.
Now set in a mythical section of Pennsylvania, we are given a rare look at what it truly requires to work on a railroad, in this case the made up AWVR. With danger lurking everywhere we learn quickly that this is a very specialized profession.
What starts out to be a typical day on the AWVR will soon be one of its most memorable. In a freight yard 90 miles north of Stanton (population 750,000), a 39-car train with more than a dozen cars loaded with highly combustible and very toxic materials is getting ready to depart.
However, failing to follow safety procedures, conductor Dewy (Ethan Suplee “Fanboys”) leaves the engineer cab with the air brakes disconnected and the throttle unsecured. With his back to the engine, the throttle vibrates into the forward position and the train starts to move.
With the switches already set, Dewy is unable to get back to the engine and a million pounds of potential disaster enters the mainline headed towards Stanton.
In Stanton, the railroad is running its special Safety Train for nearly 100 elementary school students to teach them about railroading and safety issues. Elsewhere on the primarily single-track line, regular switching runs are underway.
One switching run is headed by Frank (Washington), a 28-year veteran who is being forced to retire with half benefits in a matter of weeks. As engineer, he is being teamed for the first time with Will (Chris Pine “Star Trek”), a rookie conductor with just four months experience.
From the first moments they meet, it seems that the hot-tempered rookie has little intentions of listening or learning from the veteran. After all, his family has worked for the AWVR for generations.
All that quickly changes when word of the runaway freight or “coaster,” as it is called in railroad terms, becomes known.
When division train dispatcher Connie (Rosario Dawson “Sin City”) tries to contact her boss, he refuses her call. Not only does she have to clear the line, but secure 173 crossings and evacuate many communities along the runaway’s journey. Waiting for the train in Stanton is a fatal 20 mile-per-hour curve surrounded by gasoline storage tanks.
Going rogue against management orders, Frank and Will know they are the last hope to try and stop the now 70 mile-an-hour coaster. Will they succeed? Can Stanton be saved? Hold onto your seats, this is one bumpy ride.
“Unstoppable” is very well cast, well written and well filmed. With plenty of excitement and special effects it is rated “PG-13” for sequences of action and peril and some language. “Unstoppable” receives my second highest rating of “4-J’s/Don’t miss it!”