Human error. We’re all guilty of it. Why? Well, we’re human, but it’s one thing to not tie your kid’s kites string correctly to see it blow away in the breeze, and it’s quite another when innocent lives are at stake.
Such is the premise of Unstoppable, a new movie starring Academy Award Winner Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, who was last featured in 2009’s Star Trek as the legendary Captain James T. Kirk. The movie focuses on two railroad workers, an experienced engineer named Frank Barnes (Washington) and a rookie conductor named Will Colson (Pine).
Little information is given about the main character except for the fact that Colson is in a battle with an ex-wife, who has filed a protective order against him, preventing him from seeing her or his son. Barnes is the wizened old veteran of the railroad, who takes Colson under his wing and is the mentor despite Colson being ostracized by his co-workers who don’t respect him because he allegedly got his job because of his family connections in the railroad workers union.
While that is going on, rail yard workers are preparing to get a line of cars ready to hook up to Barnes’ locomotive for the days run. In the process of doing so, a worker fails to connect an air hose, which evidently allows the engineer to applied the air brakes not only to the locomotive, but the cars as well. The yard bird is distracted by a moving car on another track and he hops off the locomotive and accidentally trips the throttle, staring the engine down the track, unmanned. So begins the impending catastrophe, and the main characters efforts to stop it.
The movie is directed by Tony Scott, who’s most famous film is 1986’s Top Gun and other blockbusters from the Jerry Bruckheimer stable. Scott knows how to film an action movie and moreover, is really good at developing his main characters. The relationship between Washington and Pine is much in the vein of Danny Glover and Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapon movies with the back and forth banter between them, along with the obligatory action elements as well.
The movie is billed that it was inspired from a true story. That story is about an engineer who in 2001 hopped off a train in Ohio after thinking he had set the locomotive’s brakes and it went off on a 60+ mile journey across the state at a low speed. In Unstoppable to make it more entertaining it stands to reason that those elements were exaggerated which makes sense. Still the thought of it happening was a tad unnerving.
Visually this movie is filled with the car-crunching collisions and explosions, and as exciting as that was for the guy in me, since 1993’s The Fugitive they lacked a certain realism to me. Luckily though, it is but a small drawback to an otherwise excellent action thriller motion picture and a good opening movie for the coming holiday movie season.