Unstoppable (20th Century Fox)

Directed by: Tony Scott

Unstoppable is the story of a runaway train, loaded with potentially deadly explosive “phenol”, ploughing through the state of Pennsylvania. Director Tony Scott (Top Gun, Enemy Of The State) and brother of Ridley, must have a thing for out of control locomotives, his previous film was the remake of The Taking Of Pelham 123 (2009) which also starred Denzel Washington.

“Inspired by true events”, Unstoppable begins with a series of coincidences and goof-ups, mostly triggered by the actions of Dewey (My Name Is Earl’s Ethan Suplee) who works for the Allegheny and West Virginia Railroad (AWVR) and accidently lets engine number 777 get away from him. Not only is it unmanned, it’s moving at full speed and it’s full of a deadly explosive. Of course, there is a trainload of schoolchildren just down the tracks.

Fortunately veteran engineer Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) is also on the line along with a freshly-scrubbed conductor Will Colson (Chris Pine). Frank and Will need to dodge the runaway train, then chase it down and stop it before it gets to the highly populated town of Stanton, PA, where a tight curve in the track will mean that the fast-moving train will certainly crash, potentially killing thousands.

Meanwhile, yardmaster Connie Hooper (Rosario Dawson) is on the phone to AWVR V.P. Oscar Galvin (Kevin Dunn) who is, of course, only thinking about the cost to the company, rather than the potential loss of human life.

So all the elements are in place for a standard thriller. We learn a bit about Frank and Will’s personal life (Frank, a widower,  has two teenage daughters, Will’s marriage is on the rocks) Will and Frank have a “difference of opinion”, before they have to work together, gain each other’s trust and respect…blah, blah, blah…to save thousands of lives.

This is an action-thriller by the numbers. But, to be fair, Scott does a good job of ratcheting up the tension and Washington and Pine turn in fine performances. There could be worse ways to spend a cold, rainy winter night.

Marty Duda