Unstoppable *** (out of ****)

Director: Tony Scott
Writer: Mark Bomback
Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Dunn
Rating: PG-13 (sequences of action and peril, and some language)
Running Time: 98 min
Release Date: 11/12/10

Unstoppable is a purported dramatization of an actual historical event that occurred in 2001. Needless to say the writers took quite a bit of liberty with events to weave a more gripping story. This has its pros and cons but it makes for a gripping film.

Colson (Chris Pine) is a newly trained rail road conductor and Barnes (Denzel Washington) is an engineer with 28 years of experience. After a rocking introduction they are pair to run a freight train Pennsylvania to Ohio. To develop a little human interest, we learn that Colson has some serious marital problems and is under a restraining order to stay away from his wife. Barnes has a little secret himself that will play a role the plot later.

Meanwhile in Ohio, AVAR train No. 777 has been ordered to be moved off the track to a siding. Due to a set of bad choices involving the failure to connect the airbrake hoses, the failure to set a switch and reckless attempt recover by the engineer results in No. 777 heading down the track to Pennsylvania under full power with no one on board. We also have the fictitious introduction of a train with a group of school children in addition to our heroes going the other way.

Connie (Rosario Dawson) is the yard supervisor who comes on shift just in time to manage the unfolding crisis. An early attempt to stop the train reveals that rather than being a slow moving “coaster” No. 777 is under full power and moving at an undetermined speed. Connie’s quick check of the manifest reveals that the train has several car of a toxic substance. The police are alerted to monitor rail crossings and to locate the train. Her efforts to deal with the crisis are continually being frustrated by AVAR management represented by Gavin (Kevin Dunn).

As is stereotypical in films of this type AVAR management is cravenly callous only caring about the bottom line and amazingly incompetent as well. Eventually, when all else fails it is left to Barnes and Colson to save the day in defiance of their managements wishes. Unstoppable is a gripping film to watch. While many significant liberties were taken from the real events enough of the essence remains to give a pleasant 98 minutes of entertainment.

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