I’ll admit that when I first heard the storyline from the movie UNSTOPPABLE I didn’t think it sounded very interesting. It’s difficult to make a movie about a speeding train exciting. You know it’s confined to a track and that it moves fast with the chance of slipping off the rails but how could that be exciting? The makers of this movie, especially director Tony Scott proved me wrong. And I’m glad about that.
It’s Will’s (Chris Pine) first day as a conductor on a normal day for this train. His engineer is Frank (Denzell Washington), soon to retired and making one of his last runs. But their day will turn out to be anything but ordinary.
Two goofups are at another station moving a different train. When the switch to move it to a different track isn’t set, the engineer jumps down to reset it himself, leaving the train in neutral. Not only that, the air breaks haven’t been set yet but since they’re just moving it to another line they’re not concerned. That is until the train shifts into high speed mode and leaves the station before he and his conductor can get on board.
The train picks up speed the further down the line it goes. Without the air breaks there’s no way to stop it. To make matters worse, the load this train was carrying contained dangerous toxic chemicals. If that wasn’t enough, the line the train is heading down has a section with a tight curve that there is no way to make without derailing.
The train is on a collision course with two trains on the same track. One is a group of school students learning about train safety. The other is Will and Frank’s cargo train. Their train narrowly misses being demolished. After a discussion with controller Connie (Rosario Dawson), Frank comes up with a possible plan of his own to stop the train.
As higher ups try and decide what to do Connie (Rosario Dawson) attempts to assist them. But of course they think she doesn’t know what she’s talking about and brush her off. They’re plan is to derail the train in a smaller town with a piece of equipment that Frank has told Connie has no chance of working at the speed the train is moving. When it does indeed fail, Connie, Frank and Will follow through with their own plan, even though the top dogs have threatened to fire them if they do.
The drama of the film escalates at the same pace the train is making. Frank and Will’s train is racing against time going backwards to catch up to the non-stop express. Will they make it in time? Will their plan work? Hey, I might tell you a few things that happen in a movie but I won’t reveal the end.
Washington and Pine do a great job here as two men who just met but who become close through the situation they find themselves in. Each has problems of their own back home that play into their decision, but never to the point that they abandon the chance to save innocent lives. These are not men who became heroes over time but who have a definite moral core that guides them to make the choice to save lives.
Based on a true story, the events that unfold in this film are set at a pace that won’t allow you to sit still comfortable on the couch and not care. It draws you in, waiting to see what attempts are made, which ones work and waiting to see if the plan Frank and Will have come up with must be used or not.
The pacing of the film is perfect. Not only does Scott gradually increase the speed of the train, he slowly unravels the stories of the two heroes as well. Back history and current situations drive them to the decision they make. And that makes for not just an interesting film but one that holds your interest from the time the train leaves the station until the climax of the film. This one is one you won’t want to miss.