Saturday, November 13, 2010


Based on a true story

Chris Pine: young train conductor Will Colson
Denzel Washington: veteran railroad engineer Frank Barnes
Ethan Suplee: yard shunter engineer Dewey
Lew Temple: shop welder Ned
Rosario Dawson: railroad yard manager Connie Hooper
Kevin Dunn: her boss Galvin, VP of Operations
Kevin Corrigan: Federal Safety Inspector Scott Werner

Anyone who has ever sat at a railway crossing watching a long freight train as it lumbers past can only be impressed with the awesome power of the engines and the tremendous bulk of the cars passing by. This movie effectively captures that display of force by viewing the train in question from various angles. The accompanying sound serves to enhance the experience.

However as with any suspense thriller, the less said the better other than to mention that the acting is terrific, the characters are convincing and by incorporating television news reports we are always kept abreast of the unfolding story. The crisp editing keeps things moving along at a good clip.

for sequences of action and peril, and some language.

This is one of my classic all-time favourite nitpicks: at the end of the telephone conversation Frank’s daughter hangs up and he is left listening to the dial tone. In reality the dial tone is only heard after picking up the phone before dialling. That’s why it’s called a dial tone.

1 comment:

David N. Currey said...

Unstoppable is an entertaining movie, mostly unspoiled by the ridiculous special effects common to most modern day movies, and is worth seeing. The destruction caused by a train colliding with other objects is terrifying enough not to need amplification. I commend the moviemakers on this aspect of the movie.

That said, the movie, however, does have issues with its believability:
1. The engineer who caused the problem is so stupid and dim witted, he would have never been able to pass an engineer's training program.
2. None of the railroad people really act like real railroad people. Chris Pine and Denzel Washington come the closest. Real railroad people generally try to get along and would not laugh at a tragedy in the making.
3. At the beginning of the movie, it is made to seem that most people working in train service on a railroad are not members of the union. On most railroads, there are almost none in such service who are not members.
4. In one scene, the Denzel character asks the Rosario Dawson character if there is another "rip" track ahead they could go into. In actual fact, an engineer must know every inch of a railroad territory like the back of his hand, and would know where every track is.
5. In one scene where the rescue crew is switched from going onto a side track at the last minute, as the train passes the switch (turnout), a derail can be seen sitting on the side track, indicating it is not a track that a train would be routed down in such a situation.
6. The scenes involving the rip track are further flawed in that a "RIP" track is where a car is "Repaired In Place". Such tracks are located in yards, not strung out along a mainline. An appropriately named track to spot a short train would be a "house track", "team track", "siding", or "spur".
7. The scene where the rescue locomotives in front are somehow switched onto a siding while the runaway continues on down the "straight track" is impossible to happen. It was stated that the runaway "jumped the switch", an impossibility. Trains can "split" facing switches, and "run through" trailing switches, but not do what happened. It would also be impossible to line the switch between the two sets of locomotives fast enough to cause what happened. Switches are also designed not be be able to be lined when the weight of a train is on them.
8. Denzel's engine was a 3,000 HP SD-40, not a 5,000 HP engine as stated by the Denzel character.
9. The Rosario Dawson character should be titled something like a "trainmaster", since she obviously has some authority over a section of mainline. "Yard masters" or "yard managers" have authority only over a yard.
10. The siding where Chris and Denzel's train would not fit was more than long enough to hold their train.
11. The personnel on the engines that tried to slow the train down from the front could have simply walked to the back of their engines and crawled over to the runaway engines.
12. There is no reason why the rescue locomotives should have been constantly bumping into the runaway. Once the locomotives in front had slowed down slower than the runaway's speed, there would be no more than an initial bump or two. Same for the Denzel engine from the rear.

I worked for the Missouri Pacific from 1979 to 1984 in train service, and know what I am talking about. It would be nice to see a realistic railroad movie, but Hollywood has constantly proved they cannot produce such a movie. But if you can get past the above kind of issues, or are not botherd by them, this is a movie worth seeing. It does have a lot of nice railroad scenes and scenery, interesting railroad structures such as truss bridges, and a decent plot.