(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reel Thoughts: Runaway Train

How exciting can a film be about a runaway train with no engineer on board? You’ll be pleasantly surprised by Tony Scott’s new film, Unstoppable, which combines great performances, clever editing and strong storytelling to create a suspenseful thriller.

“Inspired by true events,” Unstoppable plays out like a documentary rooted in the current economy of layoffs and corporate insensitivity, paired with a classic disaster movie. The real 2001 event was nowhere near as dramatic as Scott’s adventure; chalk it up to poetic license, but I’m pretty sure that the real conductor and engineer weren’t as sexy as Chris Pine and Denzel Washington.

When a lazy engineer (Ethan Suplee from My Name is Earl) lets his locomotive get away from him and speed away with a cargo of poisonous chemicals, it’s up to Washington and Pine to fight the railroad company and stop the barreling death missile before it crashes into a heavily populated Pennsylvania town. Pine’s Will Colson and Washington’s Frank Barnes have to learn to work together, despite the fact that Barnes is about to be laid off and Colson is the black sheep of a well-connected family in the business.

The dangers that come up, like a train full of school kids and a horse trailer stalled on the track, are handled with confidence and creativity. Rosario Dawson is good in a supporting role and Kevin Dunn makes a perfect villain, the company head who puts profits ahead of people’s lives.

Even though you can predict the ending, Scott keeps you guessing as to whether or not one or the other brave man will make it off the train alive. If it follows any formula, Unstoppable mirrors disaster movies of the 70’s like Airport ’75. It’s a fun, action-filled adventure that will make you look both ways at your next railroad crossing.

UPDATE: Unstoppable is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.


  1. To be honest I didn't plan on seeing this one but it sounds pretty interesting. Great post!

  2. Thank you--It's an enjoyable and gritty film, and the cast is really engaging.