If you’re stuck at a signal point on the 7:15 from Peterborough to Kings Cross on a Monday morning it would be almost next to impossible to imagine a high-octane thriller featuring a high-speed runaway train.
If you transfer the scene to Pennsylvania, USA, swap the passenger train for a freight train loaded with highly volatile chemicals and bring in über action film director the late Tony Scott, then what you couldn’t image as your read your copy of The Metro for the 4th time becomes much closer to reality.
If Keanu Reeve’s blockbuster Speed was re-made by a train spotter, the result would be Unstoppable – a disaster movie about freight trains.
A somewhat unclear turn of events at the beginning of the film involving a train driver called Dewey (Ethan Suplee) saw a goods train laden with chemical left running without a driver, and the dead man switch all trains are supposed to be equipped with not functioning (a key plot point which again was not fully explained).
The result of this series of mishaps meant our accidental heroes Frank Barnes (Denzel Washington) and Wil Colson (Chris Pine) were called into action. Cue a fast paced thriller with the late Tony Scott’s trademark frenetic camera style As first Frank and Wil struggled to avoid the freight train they were driving colliding with the runaway train.
Then after that narrow escape from that head on collision, they quickly came to realise that the train company’s plan to stop the runaway train was a non starter and the train was heading towards the city of Stanton (population 700,000+ we were helpfully reminded). The only people who could save the town from disaster were, yes you gessed right, Wil and Frank.
With disaster movies like this you pretty much know how it going to end, it is Hollywood after all. It is like driving with a SatNav you know where it is taking you, you just don’t how far from it will deviate from what you think is the route. We knew Wil and Frank were going to save the day, all that was in doubt was how close to disaster they go before the heroic finale.
Like many disaster movies that have gone before it Unstoppable threadd a familiar path taking us through edge of the seat tension, gritty determination of our heroes, several near mishaps and finally heroic triumph as our heroes boarded the runaway train and brought it to a halt.
In the process they both achieved the trademark personal redemption, Wil had fallen out with his wife and had a restraining order slapped on him and Frank somewhat less dramatically had forgotten his daughter’s birthday.
A masterpiece, no. An entertaining way to spend one and half hours, definitely.