Unstoppable is about a choo-choo train running through open farmland. Oh, big frickin’ deal, you’re probably thinking. Well, this choo-choo train is frickin’ huge, carrying tons of chemicals and gas—flammable material, going at about 70 miles per hour, headed for populated areas, and has no conductor and can’t be stopped by any simple means. It must take the teamwork of the entire operation system and eventually, two blue-collared and family-oriented men to keep this locomotive monstrosity from destroying entire towns. In a nutshell, you think your work sucks? Your worst day is probably nothing compared to this. Feel the pain, feel the pressure. But it’s only a movie, so be enthralled too. I think you will feel it all.
Will Colson (Chris Pine) is a rookie conductor at a Pennsylvania railroad company who finds himself training under Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington), an engineer with 28 years of experience in the line of work. The two men have tensions over the “day care/retirement home” complex at the company—Will representing the new generation of workers and Frank as part of the older, established group that is being laid off in lieu of Will and his peers. They attempt to embark on business as normal, until they receive word that an unmanned train is on the loose on their track. Behind-the-scenes at central control, the dispatcher Connie (Rosario Dawson) is in a power struggle against her boss at corporate (Kevin Dunn) in their clashing solutions for dealing with the impending catastrophe. With Connie and the support of their fellow workers, Will and Frank take matters into their own hands and race against time to stop the seemingly unstoppable.
This film is director Tony Scott’s second major foray in a row involving trains and people in peril and Washington in a leading role, after last year’s The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Its plot is inspired by the Crazy Eights incident in Ohio in 2001 and although Scott’s interpretation is exaggerated for Hollywood, the real story is similar and remarkable enough to be made into this movie.
Throughout the film, we find out more about Will and Frank’s family lives—Will is estranged from his wife and child while Frank is widowed and raising two college-aged daughters (The fact that they both work at Hooters adds a very light-hearted element to the film). Sharing these stories eases the tension between the two workers as well as puts their lives in perspective as they are in jeopardy, and makes the audience root for these guys even harder. Although the premise may sound predictable on paper (or on type), Unstoppable is very intense. The first few minutes of the movie are uneventful, but once the action starts, it doesn’t stop. We go across the state of Pennsylvania with this train at 70 miles per hour. We see our protagonists’ perspectives of the events unfolding, the media following the action, and the drama at the railroad stations, central control, and at corporate. The visuals and the sounds (And they are all quite spectacular) make you feel like you’re in the middle of all the action, but seeing everything through multiple dramatic angles will actually make you feel quite stressed—you start to really connect with the characters and the incredible pressure they face in an extremely limited window of time.
This fast-paced ride is one that will get your heart pounding from the ten-minute mark to the end. Although everything is wrong with the train in the movie, Unstoppable is on the insane but right track for an excellent theatrical experience.
OVERALL SCORE: 8/10