Monday, 28 January 2013


“Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own.” - Charles de Gaulle

Every now and then we like watching a good action/thriller, especially the believable kind where the situations depicted are not too far-fetched but still make for engaging, nail-biting viewing. The bonus is when such movies are based on or have been inspired by true stories. Such was the case with a film we watched yesterday. It was Tony Scott’s 2010 movie, “Unstoppable” starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson. It is a solid, action/thriller that is inspired by true events, the real-life CSX8888 incident in which a runaway train travelled for 66 miles on a track through northwest Ohio with nobody at the controls. The screenplay for “Unstoppable” was written by American screenwriter Mark Bomback.

The movie centres on a runaway freight train loaded with thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, eight carriages of molten phenol, a highly toxic and explosive chemical, and way ahead it, in the midst of a city, a curvy track that requires all trains to slow down to 15 mph to negotiate it safely. The train travels at 70 mph and the track ahead it must be cleared to avert disaster, while everything must be done to stop the train before it gets to the curved track. Two train operatives, a veteran (Washington) and a rookie (Pine), attempt to stop the train armed with little in the way of stopping impending disaster except a one-car locomotive and their wits.

The movie does have its faults, however, it is a quickly moving (pun intended!), solidly entertaining thriller from beginning to end. Although there are two minor subplots involving the family situation of the two leads, the director cannot afford to spend too much time on characterisation or back story, launching straight into the story with two incompetent railyard employees who are responsible for setting the disaster in train (pun intended again ;-).

Both Washingtom and Pine give great performances with some depth added to the heroics, mainly through glimpses of their private lives interspersed within the action sequences. There is a lot of coverage of the trains as they move backwards and forward on the tracks, and the runaway train 777 assumes an active antagonistic role, almost an animated incarnation of evil as it hurtles down the track. There is good supporting work from Dawson who plays a rail traffic control officer who tracks the progress of the rescue operation. Minor supporting roles also add a little depth to the movie and provide relief from the constant background action.

We enjoyed the movie and recommend it as a bit of mindless entertainment, which is quite well done. It is a typical “dick-flick” so be prepared for lots of heroics, action and tough man stunts exploring the (basically shallow, but quite straightforward) male psyche. This is a “we have a problem – lets solve it” movie with little emotional depth, yet quite engaging.

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