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Unstoppable: Like derivatives trading, this train is out of control

Denzel Washington surfs a runaway train in a scene from Unstoppable.


2 out of 4 stars


Though not to be confused with latest CD from the country band, Rascal Flatts, the new movie Unstoppable aims for a similarly blue-collar demographic.

This is the second collaboration between director Tony Scott and actor Denzel Washington that lets them play with a big train set. Their first attempt at choo-choo thrillers, last year's remake of The Taking of Pelham 123, never really picked up steam, but the current effort - a tale of working-class heroes and big fast machines - has the greasy punch of a three-minute heavy-metal guitar solo. And Scott's arsenal of jumpy edits and quick changes pushes the pressure gauge into the red.

It's the human side of the movie that sputters, with barely functional back-stories and power-jostling dialogue that attach a patina of human drama to the locomotive action. Chris Pine plays Will, a rookie conductor whose wife has a restraining order against him (a silly misunderstanding about a gun on the dashboard). Frank (Washington), a widower and veteran engineer, faces forced retirement while trying to help his two daughters, both Hooters waitresses, through college.

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Initially suspicious of one another, the men bond in their mission to stop a runaway train full of toxic gunk from turning southern Pennsylvania into even more of an industrial wasteland.

Though inspired by a real incident, the movie is an opportunistic political allegory about an economy that's out of control and industries that are weakened by layoffs, under-staffing and corporate callousness.

In case we miss the point, Fox News choppers hover overhead throughout, ready to turn these ordinary chumps into folk heroes.


  • Directed by Tony Scott
  • Written by Mark Bomback
  • Starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine


Terror on a Train (1953) There's a bomb on a British train, threatening not only the passengers by a nearby naval shipyard. A demolitions expert (Glenn Ford) has to work quickly in this 72-minute film. It's one of four films that Quebec City-born Ford made that year, including Fritz Lang's film noir The Big Heat.

The Cassandra Crossing (1976) In this seventies disaster pic with a mega-cast (Sophia Loren, Lee Strasberg, Richard Harris, Martin Sheen, O.J. Simpson, Ava Gardener and Burt Lancaster), a terrorist carries a deadly plague onto a train travelling from Geneva to Stockholm. A heartless U.S. colonel (Lancaster) decides to seal the train and send it to a former Nazi concentration camp, by way of rickety bridge

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Runaway Train (1985) The bad cargo this time is human - a couple of escaped prisoners (Jon Voight and Eric Roberts) who, along with a sleeping train employee (Rebecca de Mornay) are racing through Alaska without an engineer. As with Unstoppable, there's a tight curve and a chemical plant ahead. The script is based on an original screenplay by Japanese master Akira Kurosawa.

Atomic Train (1999) In this two-part NBC mini-series, a careless waste-disposal company decides to ship a nuclear bomb along with a trainload of explosive chemicals. When the train's brakes fail, it turns into a runaway missile headed for Denver. The cast includes Rob Lowe, Kristin Davis and Mena Suvari.

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