Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
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Unstoppable (2010) Directed by Tony Scott
Frank: This ain't training. In training they just give you an F. Out here you get killed.
Will Colton (Chris Pine) is a man like many other men; he's got problems. He's living with his brother. He's starting a new job. He's getting the standard ration of hassling that comes with that, and his temper is frayed. And his brother keeps calling with updates on his court case. He's kind of on the edge.
Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) is the old hand at this. He is engineer and Will is conductor, but Frank is the trainer, and Will the trainee. They get on with their jobs.
Then there is Dewey (Ethan Suplee). Dewey is the reason men like Frank develop such a healthy paranoia about safety. He is supposed to move a train off a line; 39 cars, airbrakes disabled, but he's just moving it in the yard, so he goes ahead. And when a switch needs thrown, or they will have a booger of a time repositioning the train, he jumps out to throw the switch....and can't jump back on.
Now, they have a runaway train. At first, Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) thinks it's a coaster, (a slow mover running on inertia) but it soon becomes clear train number 777 is under power; with 39 cars to move, Dewey had set the throttle at full power.
Meanwhile, a train full of school children on an educational tour takes off....
Things in the training train get better. The two men talk, and we find out more of their life stories; Frank's concern for his daughters; his estrangement to one of them. Will's estrangement with his wife, and how the restraining order got extended.
In the train yard, things get worse. Connie realizes 777 is a runaway, and she needs to know what it is carrying. The answer; dangerous poisonous flammable chemicals. And diesel fuel. And her bosses are trying to figure how to "Salvage" the situation. But at the end of the day, there is only so much you can do with a train going 75 miles an hour, as big as the Chrysler building, and carrying a lethal load. They are not a train anymore; 777 is a missle.
And there is a hairpin elevated turn in Stanton , Pennsylvania , where Will and Frank live.
What follows is one of the best action thrillers I have seen in years. Part of what makes it good is that it is man versus nature, in this case, the nature of our transportation system. But there are no terrorists with horrible plans, and no additional menaces, like snakes on a train. It is just a group of people, doing their jobs, and trying to be heroes, not for honor and glory but to protect what is important to them.
Tony Scott has a wonderful sense of pacing; the movie cranks up the tension slowly, but like the 777, once it is under power, it is out of control. But Scott masterfully works in plans, and setbacks, and back-story with the men's lives, and cut aways to what is happening back in the world to allow you a moments respite before he grabs you by the adrenal glands and starts squeezing again. The actors are well cast; Denzel as the wise veteran, Chris Pine as the hot shot newcomer. They play well off each other.
And the politics in the Train Yard with Connie trying to save lives while the administration tries to save stock prices is as good a drama, if less frantic. Rosario Dawson shines in a role that depends more on her brains than her beauty.
All in all, it is a rollercoaster ride movie (more literally than most) and it delivers the goods on almost every level. For a disaster/action movie, you can't ask for much more.
This is entered in elvisdo's Canadian Write Off; Dylan Bruce (Will Colson's Brother) is from British Columbia
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older