With an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train barreling toward a city, a veteran engineer and a young conductor race against the clock to prevent a catastrophe.With an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train barreling toward a city, a veteran engineer and a young conductor race against the clock to prevent a catastrophe.With an unmanned, half-mile-long freight train barreling toward a city, a veteran engineer and a young conductor race against the clock to prevent a catastrophe.
The movie's based on the real-life CSX 8888 Incident, otherwise known as the Crazy Eights Incident, which involved a runaway freight train in northwestern Ohio in 2001. Locomotive #8888 was pulling 47 cars, including some with hazardous chemicals, and ran unmanned for two hours and 66 miles at speeds of up to 51 mph. (***Don't read the rest of this paragraph if you don't want to know how the real-life incident ended before seeing the movie***). Attempts to derail the train using a portable derailer failed, as did an attempt by police to shoot at an emergency fuel cutoff switch, which didn't work because the button has to be pressed for several seconds before the engine shuts down due to lack of fuel. A northbound freight train took succor in a siding area where the crew released its locomotive and waited for the runaway to pass. Like in the movie, they had a crew of two: Jess Knowlton, an engineer with 31 years of service; and Terry L. Forson, a relative neophyte conductor. They proceeded to chase the runaway train and successfully locked on to the rear car of the runaway, then slowing it by applying the dynamic brakes or their locomotive. Once the runaway had slowed to 11 miles per hour, trainmaster Jon Hosfeld ran alongside the train, jumped on, and shut down the engine.
While the movie starts somewhat bland it quickly picks up momentum for a realistic non-stop thrill ride. The realism is refreshing in this day and age of cartoony action blockbusters and their multiple "yeah, right" action scenes (not that there's anything wrong with those movies, as long as you're in the right mode). Washington and Pine make for good protagonists and you start to care about them as the story progresses. Moreover, the movie doesn't overstay its welcome at a mere 98 minutes.
The film was shot in numerous locations extending from central Pennsylvania to eastern Ohio, which serve up a nice rolling hills backdrop with the occasional river. Minor note: You'll observe a woodchuck scamper across the tracks in one scene where he/she thankfully DOESN'T become ground chuck.
BOTTOM LINE: "Unstoppable" is worthwhile as a believable disaster thriller. While it lacks the potent subtext and overall greatness of 1985's "Runaway Train," it makes up for it with its realistic and kinetic tone, not to mention the fact that it's based on a true incident.
- Oct 17, 2015